TORONTO — “People 45 and up account for 42 percent of the population in Canada, but they control 72 percent of the wealth — with this kind of clout, surely advertisers should be breaking down the door to reach them.”
So says George Grant, president and chief executive of MZMedia Inc., which owns Toronto-based Zoomer Radio.
Located on the 740 kHz AM clear channel, feeding a 5 kW transmitter that reaches as well into the United States — New York City, Chicago, Washington and all places in between — and also streaming online, Zoomer Radio has a mission to reach this audience and reap the ad dollars it represents.
“The 45-plus audience controls most of the wealth not just in Canada but the United States as well,” said Grant. “So what better way to reach this market — which is terribly underserved by today’s AM/FM stations — than by a station like Zoomer Radio, which plays the older music that this demographic loves?”
Zoomer Radio is based on the “zoomer” concept developed by Moses Znaimer. He is the Canadian media guru who has repeatedly led the industry by opening up hip local television stations, like Citytv in Toronto, and pioneering Canadian music television with MuchMusic.
Having retired from television a few years ago, Znaimer acquired AM740 along with two classical FM stations in the Toronto region.
He also took over the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) and revamped its positioning from a traditional 50-plus senior citizen image to an edgy “boomers who still love life and sex” stance.
As part of this effort, Znaimer rebranded the CARP 50Plus newspaper as Zoomer Magazine. This is where the Znaimer concept of zoomers — “boomers with zip,” as he refers to them — comes into play.
“The population bubble that was the youth market 30 years ago has grown to become the market I have defined as ‘zoomers,'” said Grant. “They were the dominant generation then, and they remain the dominant generation today.”
According to Grant, Zoomers are a growing, vibrant and affluent community. “They look at the world with optimism; they are engaged and aspire to enrich their lives and the lives of their communities,” he said.
Even before Znaimer purchased AM740 in 2008, this station was playing the oldies. In fact, between the time that CBC Radio moved from 740 kHz to a Toronto FM channel in 2001 and the purchase of the station by Znaimer, AM740 played oldies under the name Prime Time Radio.
This said, Zoomer Radio is far more edgy and urban than Prime Time Radio was. Besides offering numerous hit music programs, the station features personalities like noted consumer-rights reporter Dale Goldhawk; CKLW rock ‘n’ roll broadcast legend Bill Gable; and Gene Stevens, host of the X-rated “Midnight Blue” show.
“Being a Zoomer is a state of mind,” said Grant. “It is about looking forward to life and having an open and interested attitude to what is new and different — it is living with a sense of purpose and value, and doing what you can to stay healthy and fit while enjoying life to the fullest.”
Zoomers, said Grant, are people who have “paid their dues” and have the wealth and time to prove it. “They are the people that advertisers need to reach!”
At present, Zoomer Radio has a weekly audience of about 500,000 within its Canadian broadcast contours, which stretch far beyond Toronto.
As for U.S. listeners? Because Arbitron does not measure U.S. audiences for non-U.S. stations, no formal data exists.
So are advertisers breaking down the doors at Zoomer Radio? Not quite yet.
“It is hard for many of them to let go of the 25–54 mindset that they are accustomed to,” said Grant. “But slowly, we are seeing progress.”
“Slowly but surely, smart advertisers are starting to grasp where the money is — and that the Zoomers have most of it.”
James Careless covers the industry for Radio World from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.