If radio doesn’t find how to interact with Generation Z on the platforms, gadgets, and channels that interest them, the industry will lose a whole generation, and also the ones that will follow.
From video to podcasting to the connected car, the radio industry has become considerably more complex.
I remember getting ready for school with the radio playing in the background, getting in the car and the radio would be on; relaxing on a Sunday afternoon and the radio would be on. I did not have the luxury of Spotify, SoundCloud, Deezer, YouTube and the like. Radio was the only place I could listen to my favourite artist or find out what was happening in the world.
I even remember sitting with my tape recorder next to the radio and when my favourite song came on, I would quickly record it just to be able to listen to it again later.
Today it is a completely different ball game. But what is still the same is the authentic, local connection between radio and its listeners. The only difference now versus decades ago is that today people can enjoy that connection anywhere they are across a variety of platforms.
Something familiar to the marketing mind is the Boston Consulting Group Matrix. The matrix puts products into categories including the categories of Stars (hot, new product), Cash Cows (successful, mature product), Problem Child (low share, high growth) and Dog (declining product).
The category your product falls into helps determine the investment and effort you should put into the product.
If we think of audio and Gen Z, radio should be sitting in the Stars category – high investment upfront to attract, nurture and maintain the emerging market with a taste for different ways of consuming and engaging with radio.
If radio is to be viable a decade from now, connecting with today’s teens isn’t just desirable, it’s mandatory for survival.
Gen Z cares about improving the world and actively chooses brands that work to make the world a better place, according to marketers. Authenticity and meaningful interactions are also extremely important.
And what makes radio unique? The relatable, personal connections a listener feels with the presenter. So radio can fulfil Gen Z’s requirements perfectly.
Radio also wins in capturing the younger audience through family listening – radio campaigns like East Coast Radio’s ‘The Grand Challenge’ or the American show ‘Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader’ work well in entertaining the older audience and allowing the younger audience to join in.
What we cannot assume is that these teens will grow into adults who join the workforce, buy cars, start commuting to work, and then stumble upon the radio on the dashboard. The idea of radio simply isn’t as appealing to younger music lovers as it is for their parents.
According to the American Edison Infinite Dial 2019 study, the audio landscape in the United States is exploding. There has been huge growth across various audio categories, including a 2500% growth in smart speaker ownership and more than 48% increase in podcast listening. It’s becoming more and more clear that what’s on your smartphone is what will be coming out of your car’s dashboard speakers[G1] .
Defining Gen Z
Born between 1995 and 2012, Gen Z will soon surpass Millennials as the most populous generation on earth, with more than one-third of the world’s population counting themselves as ‘GenZers’.
Gen Z is the first generation to be raised within the era of smartphones. Many don’t remember a time before social media. They live and breathe the virtual connected life.
An study by the global firm Ipsos highlighted that Gen Z spend more than 18 hours each week and 2.6 hours or more each day listening to audio, accessing this audio content across a vast array of platforms, including broadcast radio, digital streaming, podcasts and smart speakers.
So, what should the approach be to attract Gen Z to your radio brand
Develop a smartphone strategy that speaks to these young consumers. Your radio stream is not enough. Think about why Buzzfeed is loved. It is an oasis of infotainment. Consider providing a great mobile experience with news, gig guides, games, video and alternative radio streams. We know Gen Z are engaged on their phones hourly – so why not join them there.
According to the Global Web Index, Gen Z spend an average of three hours per day on social media. That’s the highest amount of time among all generations. They are also gravitating to photo and video- based platforms, such as Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Vimeo, platforms without extended commentary. Gen Z also tends to have a shorter attention span. They expect quick, bite-sized content that catches their eye and gets to the purpose quickly. Focus on educating and entertaining simultaneously.
Think about how quickly TikTok (120 million monthly active users) has grown worldwide, or even Likee. Stations that are not invested in video on demand or creating visual entertainment will be left behind. Out of the 130 million worldwide subscribers, according to Netflix, over 45 million accounts watched ‘Bird Box’ in the first week of its release – the best opening week for any Netflix film. What made it such a hot watch? Within a day of its release, ‘Bird Box’ memes were popping up all over Twitter and variations of them.
It’s easy to use our on-air and social channels to promote and market podcasts. The challenge comes in creating on-demand content that resonates for a younger audience. There is nothing wrong with creating podcasts that have zero air-play or are not aligned to the main brand. It allows you to tap into new talent and content ideas.
Be where Gen Z is. The great thing about radio that you can’t get from an app, is the human connection. Think of activations and events targeting this market.
Get tech savvy
The digital space provides opportunities for radio to expand its reach to other channels and formats. However, it also creates challenges because it demands time, personnel, different skill sets, and the difficulty of monetising digital content.
Traditional radio cannot afford to come to the table late when it comes to the growing population, fast-paced trends, and younger demographic just because we are chasing the cash cows (the spending market of Millennials and Gen X), ratings and revenue.
In the end, it all comes down to content connection. If you want to attract Gen Z, you need to deliver compelling and entertaining content that they can’t get anywhere else.
This story was first published in the July 2020 issue of The Media magazine. Read it here.
Charis Apelgren-Coleman is the market engagement manager at Kagiso Media Radio. She has worked with small and large local organisations as well as large multinational organisations, while managing specialist content teams.
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