Friday, June 26, 2009

Everything you know is wrong

I know. This was supposed to be a blog about technological change across a broad front, but the media just keep providing me with fodder for these rants. Two things crossed my monitor today that left me stunned and amazed. I guess I'm wrong about all the stuff I thought I knew about how media was changing so rapidly. Apparently it is all just peachy for the traditional guys--TV and radio.

First, apparently teenagers are NOT deserting traditional over-the-air radio at all. Quite the opposite! According to INSIDE RADIO--which is owned by a company that owns a whole bunch of radio stations, by the way--the medium has no worries about losing teens--now and forever:

Study shows teens not "totally lost." Nearly four-in-ten teenagers say an iPod or MP3 player is their primary method of consuming music. But Nielsen's report says radio is still the first choice for a sizable number. According to the study, radio is still the "primary source" of music consumption for 16% of teens and a secondary source for another 21%.

So tell me. If this survey had been done ten years ago, reckon how many teens would have said radio was their primary source of music? Even with MTV still playing music videos? I'd bet about anything it was somewhere north of 50%. 16% is good news? 40% have ear buds attached to an MP3 player instead of a transistor radio? Gawd!

So then I get a look at the entire survey referenced in this dreamy news story. And I get a gander at some interesting data. It claims a typical teenager--A TYPICAL TEENAGER, right?--spends 52 minutes a day with a computer. 6 minutes a day using mobile voice. 23 minutes on the Internet. But also almost 3.5 hours a day with that old reliable medium TV. And an amazing 92% of their video was consumed watching regular, old TV.

I have one question: who the hell was this "typical" teenager? Has he not heard of YouTube? That exciting new device, the cellular telephone? Or is he/she so totally unimpressed with the Internet that only 23 minutes a day are wasted there while they spend the rest of their time doing homework, helping clean the house, and doing good deeds for the elderly people in the neighborhood? Oh, and watching TV.

OK, Nielsen should know a thing or two about gathering and interpreting data. And I know it is a slippery slope when we question data just because it does not back up our beliefs or theories. But I cannot see any basis in reality in this stuff.

And I think the true slippery slope is if TV and radio broadcasters really--in their heart of hearts--believe most teenagers are not watching video or getting their music elsewhere.

Don Keith


Anonymous said...

I have been thinking exactly the same thing Don. I went to a job convention for the radio broadcasting industry in San Francisco recently. There was a talk beforehand. The gentleman giving the talk was a radio industry veteran who quoted to us the results of a survey. I forget the exact figures, but the claim was that a very large percentage of teens still listen to the radio on a regular basis.

My first thought was "Are you kidding me?" Then I realised that he hadn't specified what the total amount of time spent listening was; just that a large percentage of teenagers still listen. I'd like to know these radio listening figures in a bit more detail. Perhaps they discovered that most teens tune to a radio station at least once a week, but don't actually spend much time listening to it; that would be more believable to me.

As someone who used to work in broadcast radio, and recently considered getting back in, I'd love it if radio really was still the primary way most people get their music, but I strongly suspect it is not.


Anonymous said...

Dave, you are correct, and thanks for posting. I worked in radio for 22 years, then did software marketing for systems that were used by radio, TV, and ad agencies for 12, including 4 years with Arbitron. Many of these "studies" are using questionable sample size and methodology. And most of them are considering only "cume" audience...diarykeepers who indicated as little as five minutes total listening in a single daypart in a full week.

I still say somebody would have to be dead to not catch five minutes of radio in a week's time. But as an advertiser now, that has NO value to me. I want to reach people with my commercial more than four times per week to achieve "effective reach."

I know of few industries so inflicted with "head-in-the-sand" syndrome. Another example of how some cannot handle rapid change.

Don Keith N4KC