By Curt Krafft
If you think something isn't going to work, it won't. Rightly or wrongly, perception plays a huge role in the world of business. This is especially true in the business of broadcasting. If we truly believe that appealing to older demos will not translate into a significant amount of revenue, then it won't. And nothing is going to change our mind.
So, the obvious question is, "How do we combat this type of thinking?" Well, to paraphrase the ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, the battle must be won before your soldiers take to the battlefield. You must have in your file the numerous studies that show how older demos are still lucrative. And why you should go after them. You must demonstrate how the demo pie has been sliced so many times that there is nothing left but crumbs. And crumbs won't make you money. Time to get a new pie. One that is fresh, hot, and most importantly, has not been cut into as yet.
You must also have in your file an effective method of going after these older demos. In this case, a 50s and 60s oldies format. But it must be one that is acceptable to the oldies audience. If you don't have your core constituency listening, how can you expect to then go after a slightly younger demo? And yes, that is possible to do.
But there's one more file you must have. It's the file on "those" oldies stations that did do well in the ratings and with the oldies public. And some of them are worthy of praise. Stations such as WCBS-FM (before Jack) and WDRC-FM (during its oldies heyday) are two examples of outstanding oldies programming. Outstanding being defined as larger than usual playlists, professional leadership, and top-quality air personalities. You must have all three or it's not going to work. And then you must have your list of oldies stations that sounded terrible but still did well in the ratings ? because they were the only game in town.
Nothing irks me more than a business that succeeds not because it's any good, but because it has no competition. It's like a football team with a .500 or less record but is still in first place in its division. Are they in first place because they're that good or is it because the rest of their division stinks? I believe many oldies stations, especially those with limited playlists, have succeeded only because they were the only oldies station in the market and within listening range. In other words, the oldies fan had no place else to go. It's called "winning by default."
Now your files are complete and you are ready to make your case for going after older demos and doing so with an "effective" 50s and 60s oldies format. You will still face one more obstacle. That dreaded "wall of perception." Older people are perceived as having limited value, both as employees and as a potential audience. We must break through this wall of ignorance and show those "in charge" the error of their thinking. We must tear down this wall with facts, figures, and logic. And just in case that doesn't work, bring along a sledgehammer. For the wall. Really! Just for the wall?Really!
Curt Krafft has 35 years in radio under his belt, including WDRC-FM, Hartford, CT; WINX, Washington, DC; WXTR, Washington, DC; WEVD, New York; and WHVW, Poughkeepsie, NY.
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