Are We Taking Older Listeners for Granted?


Older radio listeners are telling us “Radio used to be better.”  We heard this sentiment over and over in a series of focus groups we conducted nationwide this summer from adult music radio listeners ages 35 to 54.


We already know Radio has its challenges with younger demographics, but now our older listening may be in jeopardy too. Nearly every Focus Group participant told us they believe “Radio is not as good as it used to be.”


Digging into what’s driving this dissatisfaction, here’s what we heard over and over:


  • Radio plays it too safe
  • Radio has a very little visibility in the market (they felt this way even before the COVID pandemic)
  • Radio doesn’t have very many local DJs or shows and even fewer that cut-through
  • Most contests are national and less interesting
  • Radio used to be more fun


The assessment of our performance from radio’s most valuable audience should keep us all up at night.  Our present-day tactics and strategies aren’t fooling 35-54s, and, in fact, they are leading to lower product satisfaction from radio’s heaviest and most loyal listeners. And less audience satisfaction results in lower engagement and less time spent listening.


We can choose to ignore what the radio audience is telling us or take the feedback seriously and use it wisely to produce a more engaging experience, on-air and off.


Our most coveted and lucrative older audience members are asking us to do better. So, what’s stopping us from doing more of what we used to do and what listeners are craving?  Our recommendation is to spend less time on the music and more time on the content between the songs. Focus more on why people tune-in and less on why they may tune-out. Hire entertainers, encourage risk-taking, be active in the community and turn up the fun!


Ken Benson is a multi-award-winning contemporary radio and music television programmer. Today, Ken is a co-founder and partner of P1 Media Group, providing insights and strategies to leading media companies around the world. He can be reached at