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the low spirit of radio

carradioI wrote a work article about AM radio and briefly touched upon how it's slowly falling out of favor with the masses. AM and FM radio are mostly listened to by people over 30 and this is why more stations are switching over to talk format - even on the FM side. More on that in a moment.

Commercial radio is not dead because of people over 30 who drive cars. Were it not for that very specific segment of listeners, radio (both AM and FM) simply wouldn't have an audience and I have no doubt of that whatsoever.

Kids today do not listen to over-the-air radio. XM and internet-based yes, but over-the-air no. I'm pretty sure they'd only tune into over-the-air stations as an absolute last resort, meaning they'd only use it if there was literally nothing else to listen to.

On rare occasion I will listen to FM radio in the car when driving, but the one thing that absolutely irritates the crap out of me are the ads. I totally understand that's how the stations make their livelihood, but the way radio does ads today is the same crap they pulled years ago.

I do remember back in the 1980s that there was this huge fracas concerning FM radio where the ads were way too overpowering. It was so bad that the DJ's were literally cutting as much as 30 seconds out of the end of songs just to get more ads out on the air. That ticked people off something awful and as such just stopped listening.

Soon after that many stations started promoting commercial-free stretches of music but they had to literally spell it out just to convince people it was a for-real thing, such as "non-stop rock for 30 minutes". This did work and it got the listeners back.

The problem today however is getting anyone listening to over-the-air radio that's under 30. The under-30 audience simply isn't there presently. Because of this there have been some radical changes concerning the industry in general.

"Acting like AM" is a tough thing to describe but I'll try my best.

AM radio has a very dedicated audience, much more so than FM does. It didn't used to be this way as FM was always the largest draw, but not anymore. So what happened? What happened is that the AM guys did the right thing by not trying to overdo everything. They have their markets, those markets all have dedicated listeners and the stations concentrated on bringing predictable quality content to said listeners. It won't make you a million dollars, but it's stable with sustainable income. FM on the other hand kept changing their stuff way too much too often and lost money hand over fist.

What most FM stations learned the hard way is that yes, there's a ceiling, but thought they could bust through it. Nope. Wrong. Once you hit that ceiling, that's as far as you can go. Try to go farther and you stretch yourself too thin, thereby losing your listeners.

An example of going too far is by having too much national syndicate crap in the programming. When a station doesn't have enough local content, it completely disconnects from the local audience; that's when the listeners start leaving in droves and local businesses stop advertising because there's no one listening to advertise to.

There are three formats in AM that always work:

You'll notice the bulk of AM stations are one of the above.

There are more FM stations that are adopting one of the formats above because they do work. This is a HUGE change compared to years ago because a station known for music would never engage in such a radical shift to a non-music format, effectively eliminating all music from the programming. But they are.

Of the three, sports and religious do attract the most younger listeners. With religious, it's the parents that gets the kids listening who in turn become regular listeners. With sports, it's the "oh, cool, I can listen to the game while I'm doing my job/homework" factor.

It's my prediction that at some point there will be no more music on over-the-air radio. All of it will be talk, sports and religion.

If you do listen to FM radio and just thought, "The FM station I listen to is like that now", I'm not surprised. Expect that station to cut out the music completely at some point in the future, because heck, it's not like you listen to the station for music anyway, right?

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