Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So Where Are The New Format Ideas?

As we approach the Summer it could be a great time to see some fresh thinking and new ideas in formats and new approaches in radio programming. In many ways Summer is a time when the ratings pressure is off a little in the 4 book markets to launch something fresh and new or roll out a few experiments and see how they sound.

Last Summer we saw the 'Movin' format get rolling in a number of markets, but now it's pretty much looking like this adult rhythmic approach is not exploding. The summer before in 06 was really the wind down of a 2 year period where the Jack/Variety Hits formats were the news, but for the most part they have stabilized or even faded away in many markets. Last summer we also saw a number of Oldies stations re-vamp themselves as Classic Hits and bringing in a lot more 70s/80s titles.

So what could be on tap for this year? There are some ripe territories that could be up for grabs:

  • 90s Rock - In the late 70s the oldies format was born, in the late 80s we saw Classic Rock flourish, the 80s formats largely came into being in the late 90s and here we are in the late 2000s. There is a lot of great rock from the era and a few stations have already started in this direction this year. You many not have heard of them as the launches have been rather low key and involved existing rockers tweaking their approach. The climate is ripe as today's 25-40 year olds all spent their teens and early 20s in the 90s. The dawn of Grunge, Alternative, pop alternative, Active Rock and 90s metal are all part of the rock side of the 90s and lots of it still tests very well.
  • Youth Formats - We have given up in many ways on the teens and 18-24s in our research and experiments in recent years. The news isn't good and we haven't even looked carefully at this market, perhaps due to tightening budgets. It's time to get off our butts and at least take a long hard look at what could be an exciting radio product for the 15-25 year olds. Is anyone doing anything? Doesn't look like it but it could be a spot to work on. It's going to take a lot of new thinking, social networks, texting tricks, unique web approaches and a whole new approach to music. In many ways it's a lot like the launch of young formated youth stations on FM in the early 70s. They threw out every rule of the AM top 40s to make an impression and the going was tough for a while, but look at the big winnings 10 years later!!!
  • 90s-Current based AC - A few jumped when the 'Fresh' approach hit in NYC, but there hasn't been much news of recent. This approach to get the more mature 25-44 female could work well in lots of markets.
  • FM Talk - We've been talking about it for years but very few have turned it into a strong format.
  • Rock - In almost all forms could be a good move this Summer. The music is in good shape for currents and the classic forms of the music reach into the 50 plus audience with ease now. There's Rock out there for people from the late teens all the way to the 60s in some form. Now with PPM finally moving into the top 10 markets this Fall and we're still seeing stronger shares and cume for Rock in PPM than in the Diary system.

It could be an interesting summer, but it could also be a drought in creativity and experimenting. Even though our industry desperately needs to innovate with our products there doesn't seem to be much attention focused on it. The top news seems to be the Clear Channel buy out, which is no doubt distracting all the Clear Channel stations from investing or experimenting for a while. There is also lots of news on the economy and struggling revenues which is another deterrent to innovating. We're also continuing to invest a lot of time and effort into HD Radio and not gaining anything for it. Perhaps it's time to get back to focusing a lot more on our product and the audience.


Anonymous said...

"Radio Rolls Out HD2: The Next Generation"

Of course they forgot to mention this:


"After conducting a survey of 340 HD2 stations to determine their programming needs, the folks at Clear Channel have dumped a number of their HD 'Format Lab' stations due to a lack of demand."

It is one lie after another with the HD Alliance - no one believes iBiquity/HD Alliance, anymore:

"HD Radio spinners claim a breakthrough year: Pulling a fast one"

"According to a press release from the Alliance 330,000 HD receivers were sold last year. This is a 725 per cent increase from the 40,000 sets purchased a year earlier and therefore 2007 was a 'breakthrough year' for the technology. In 2008 they will sell a million of the things."

Anonymous said...

I don't blame Wall Street radio for not ripping off Radio Disney when they had the chance. Even though Disney owned so much of that product (Hannah Montana, Jonas Bros, etc.), they didn't want to line ABC/Disney's pockets short-term. But by biting the bullet in the short-term, the opportunity was there to keep kids listening to radio long-term, and even create (gasp) competition for tween music and artists. So much for the short-term Wall Street mindset. Note that relegating Radio Disney to AM's and online hasn't seemed to affect Disney's bottom line at all.