CRS Research Presentation: Personalities Power Radio – March 4, 2024

In a world of on-demand … you and what you do are very much still in demand. Smith Geiger’s national survey of 816 people indicate that listeners value the convenience, connection and conversation of radio and its personalities. Radio is powered by personalities.

According the to the survey — the first to focus on Country radio’s personalities — listeners, by a wide margin, preferred the following:

  • personalities who feel authentic, even if they’re not always polished.
  • Personalities who share stories and talk about the music they’re introducing.
  • Personalities who take a casual “everyman” approach
  • Personalities who never talk about their values or politics

The most successful influencers are themselves — they’re real, In a world that is going to be filled with AI content, this is our opportunity. This is our chance to connect with the audience.

A sizable percentage of the audience opposes the concept of AI “voices,” with 47% saying they either hated the idea or didn’t like it very much. The idea of using AI voices runs counter to the strong preference of respondents for authenticity in its personalities. You’ve got an uphill battle if you’re going to do this.

The preference for personalities that steer clear of talking about their values and politics, noting that many people turn to Country radio as a place to escape that part of their lives.

Escape factor is a big part of what you can do for the audience going forward. If you sit down at the end of the day and say, ‘I help my audience escape all the worries and fears that they have in a complex and sometimes scary world, you’ll have done your job.

The integration of generative artificial intelligence into broadcasting sparked a significant study focusing on the most pivotal roles of radio air talent. The 2024 CRS Research Presentation by Smith Geiger underscored the irreplaceable value of human connection.

What Do Listeners Want From Radio Talent? Mostly, A Good Time

The research reveals a clear preference among Country music fans for live radio, driven by the personalities that bring music and content to life. With 65% of listeners tuning into Country music via streaming and 60% through terrestrial radio, the convenience and familiarity of radio remain unmatched, providing a hassle-free listening experience that caters to the audience’s desire for relaxation and entertainment.

Listeners value the connection they feel with on-air personalities, who not only introduce them to new music but also offer companionship and insights into the songs and artists they love.

74% of listeners recall hearing on-air voices at least occasionally, with a significant 34% often or every time they tune in. The presence of an on-air personality is a driving factor for increased listening time, particularly noted in 32% of the overall audience and an impressive 46% among Black audiences.

The study highlights the audience’s preference for authenticity over polish, with 86% favoring genuine personalities who might not always be polished but are relatable. 73% of listeners prefer personalities who share stories and insights about the music, indicating a strong desire for a personal touch that enhances the listening experience. This preference extends to the style of presentation, with 68% favoring a casual, everyman approach and 63% appreciating personalities who steer clear of values or politics discussions.

Key findings about the essential elements for on-air talent include the importance of being a real person (not a bot), authenticity, and a positive outlook, which resonate the most with listeners. Conversely, less critical elements include having shared interests or political views, and surprisingly, being local to the listener’s area, suggesting that great personalities can transcend geographical boundaries.

When it comes to content, listeners show a preference for Country music news, information about the music or artist being played, local breaking news, and general area weather. They express less interest in broader news categories, including national and international news, sports, and politics, highlighting the role of Country radio as an escape from the everyday.

The format and style of on-air talent also play a role in listener preferences, with slight preferences for teams over solo talent, humorous over earnest presentations, and a focus on music over other content types. However, the reception of AI voices in radio broadcasting is mixed, with a notable portion of the audience either skeptical or outright opposed to the idea, emphasizing the continued importance of human elements in radio.

As Country radio navigates the evolving landscape of AI and digital technologies, the study underscores the enduring value of human connection, authenticity, and relatability in on-air talent, which remain central to the listening experience.

Roadmap: Another CRS Research Study

There’s a new battleground for audio, your phone’s home screen. And your station’s app needs to be there.

While radio listening on mobile phones is up, it’s not keeping pace with streaming growth. It’s recommended that stations promote their apps and incentivize listeners to download them via things like giveaways and bonus content.

Make sure the app listening experience is equally as great as your on-air experience. And do whatever you have to do to make sure that there’s a fire drill whenever that stream is down.

The presentation’s second big takeaway? The format is hot if you limit your pop exposure. “Twang” and rock is where it’s at, according to a recent survey of 8,000 people showed pop Country ranking the lowest of four groups — mainstream, pop, rock, and twang.

Facebook and email remain the most reliable ways to engage with listeners alone, according to the survey. Nearly 80 percent of 18-34s use both every day.

Stations also should maximize the loyalty of listeners to their morning shows. More than half of those surveyed said they listened to their favorite morning show five days a week.

Make sure you’re driving cume to the morning show because you’re going to want more people spending that five days a week with the morning show. Then also utilize that cume to drive people to listen in other dayparts.

While concert tickets still rule when it comes to giveaways, nobody wants to hear ‘caller 9’ anymore. Stations should make giveaways special, emphasizing their value to listeners rather than the station’s access to tickets. Don’t end up in a situation where you have so many tickets to give away that you’re throwing things away and not utilizing those. If you have to, create some email-only [contests]. Create some that are just on Facebook, so that you can make every single one of them special.

For the 2024 survey, a first-time question was introduced about the right time to introduce Christmas music to a station’s playlist. Three out of four respondents said holiday tunes should start at some point after Thanksgiving. It was suggested to start out with feel-good and traditional Country Christmas classics. That’s especially important this year, because the election is not going to be over with when the election is over. It’s going to be noisy and messy. So, we’re going to make sure we’re in a spot where everybody feels good about the holidays coming in.

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