Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Radio students on 'Radio'

What do radio students think of radio?

Quite a bit, actually.

Eight weeks into their first semester, more than 50 first year, first semester radio students had an assignment which required them to analyze radio: familiar stations they listen to often, and stations they have never tuned into before. Results of their findings will be revealed momentarily – please stand by.

It’s always interesting getting perspective on the current state of radio from young adults. These are folks drawn into studying this industry for various reasons: they love music, love sports, love writing and/or audio, have opinions and observations they want to share, or - in some cases – just love talking and maybe just love the sound of their own voice.  At this stage in their radio studies, they have just the right amount of foundational knowledge for a somewhat informed opinion, but not enough knowledge to sway their opinion from a true honest observation.

I had just finished marking this assignment, and summarizing takeaways for this blog piece, when I attended the November OAB Conference, aptly titled ‘ Visioning the Future’.

Daniel Anstandig, CEO of Futuri -which is a developer of social and mobile audience engagement technology – encouraged media companies to tap into millennial brains to get their views of the future of media. Jeff Vidler – President of Audience Insights, and one of the smartest radio people in Canada I might add – followed Daniel’s presentation by revealing results of his actual discussion with 6 millennial brains. This sample group -  young adults averaging mid-twenties – urged the radio industry to be more fun, and to focus on personalities. They like contesting, ease of use and convenience of radio. They don’t want to use their data to listen to radio (hello – unlock the FM chip anyone?). 

These are important takeaways from average, everyday people who are coming at these conclusions and observations from a very honest and unbiased point of view. Here at Humber college, the faculty – radio and all media programs specifically  - are lucky enough to have access to these kinds of opinions and observations on the state of whatever media - on a regular basis - each and every time we step into a classroom or mark an assignment.

Here's an example.

Circling back to the opening of this piece - and results of an assignment where the students - currently everyday people with a vested interest in radio - were asked to critically listen and analyze radio and offer the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Highlights from the ‘Radio Station Analysis’ assignment from fall 2016.

Sample Size: 50
35% female
65% male
Average age

First year, first semester radio students, Humber College School of Media Studies and Information Technology, Toronto, ON

Assignment Objective – (synopsis):
  • Listen critically to one hour of radio on a station you are familiar with, and another hour of radio on a station you have never listened to
  • Look at their web page – see if you can find information about the company, management etc
  • Record -on a hot clock, and analyze the following:

    • When did the station break during that hour, and what did those breaks contain?
    • Why were commercials placed here – observations?
    • What did the host/announcer talk about, and why did they talk about that item at that point?
    • Who is listening, what makes you think that?
    • Who is the direct competition to this station, and why?
    • If you were the PD – what would you change – if anything?

Findings : The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Good  – point form

  • The term 'part of' came up a bit. These young listeners liked to feel they were ‘part of’ something  - part of the joke - part of a 'special club' - all terms that came up
  • They LIKE news headlines. Many listened to stations they never listened to before and heard top hour headlines - questioning why all the stations didn't do this?
  • They like to be reminded of who is talking, what was played, the time and weather, background on songs and - how it always was before someone said no one wants this anymore! Many of these students were listening to some of these stations for the first time and were unfamiliar with the songs, the host etc. One student questioned – “does the station not want to attract and keep more listeners so their ratings will increase? Then tell me what and to whom I am listening!
  • They like hosts who interact with listeners
  • They like hosts in general! A few students tuned into an hour of radio that was clearly unmanned – on auto, and they couldn't understand why there was no host. One mentioned how it was an opportunity lost.
  • They like strategically placed spot sets – and sets that were shorter length.
  • They like good, informative and funny talk radio (some never listened to talk before)-  but they felt the hosts should identify the guests more often
  • They like classical music - and jazz - and have discovered these are relaxing stations that they will tune into moving forward. (note: opportunity here given our stressed out millennials!)
  • Many found stations for the first time that they didn't know exist. (note: another case to implement Sean Ross’ idea of radio pooling together to advertise radio (on billboards and other mediums)
The Bad and Ugly –  point form

  • Overuse of splitters. One student offered  - do they think the listener is stupid? We get we are listening to that station!
  • Lack of information. What are they listening to? Who are they listening to outside of the splitters?
  • No host. Many students pulled an all-nighter (as students do) to complete this assignment. Many questioned why they didn't hear a host -or any interaction with audience. One student pondered - don't they want people to tune in overnight? What about all the shift workers?
  • Commercial spots that were too long; Many students commented on this –and suggested that a long stop set sounded like one big commercial – the first client gets forgotten after commercial number 7 airs. 
  • Many commercials – some felt - also had too much information – they were confused. What exactly is the client selling?
  • Certain hosts were talking to audience as a whole, rather than individually - there was no intimacy
  • Information gathering; students questioned why it was so hard to find information about demographics and psycho-graphics on the radio webpage? Shouldn’t this be clearer? (Many noted CHFI did a good job with this)
  • Students also noted many stations did not clearly identify station management and how to contact them outside of a general 'contact us' form.

Interesting observations and takeaways from the future stakeholders in radio; our colleagues and maybe even our bosses? These young people have great ideas. They have logical observations and questions - which in some cases - don’t have a logical answer. They want to be heard and share their ‘millennial brains’ with you – the agents of change. Listen closely, and you could learn a thing or two like we profs do every time we step into the classroom.

To arrange for your own focus group, poll or survey with these students – feel free to contact me. They would love for you to hear their opinions.


Today’s class discussion was on social media platforms and what the class – sample size 18 - likes best and why. Will this help form the social media platforms you use with your stations?