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Time for Radio to Look Ahead, Not Back

Greater Media executive says every station needs a “transformation plan”

Greater Media Chairman/CEO Peter Smyth believes the industry has reached a tipping point as far as listener behavior and attitudes.

Commenting on the recent Infinite Dial report from Edison Research and Triton Digital, Smyth says it’s “amazing” that nearly half of Americans consume online “radio” each month. “Even more significant is that among 12–24-year-olds, that number rises to 75% who listen online. When you look at weekly consumption, the numbers hold up, notes Smyth in his latest blog post.

Smyth continues: “In fact, time spent listening online has again increased and is now 13 hours per week. That’s double what it was just a few years ago in 2009. This is not just a passing fad; this is an established habit.

Millennials in that 12–24 age group have figured out how to get what they want, when they want it, and Gen X and Baby Boomers are not far behind. The report shows 50% of these demographics are regularly listening online.”

He credits the smartphone for driving the change and says in-car listening has joined the change, with 26% of study participants saying they’ve connected their smartphone to their in-car stereo.

Radio, says Smyth, needs to look ahead and not back. Stations need to focus on their existing brands and expand and re-create them to become multiplatform and consumer-friendly, he believes. “We have to carefully redefine our business model and recognize that we are well beyond the one-size-fits-all era of broadcasting. We cannot continue to stuff more and more commercials into giant stopsets each hour.”

Stations must explore new things and begin to create original content that only lives in the digital world, he concludes. “Then we need to use our broadcast megaphone to make sure that our listeners know there’s much more to our brand than simply the tower’s signal.”

He recommends every station get going on its “transformation plan.”