A company called The Pew Research Centre carried out a study recently in 3 US cities asking people how they got their news and local information. When it came to News 69% said radio did an excellent or good job which was just behind TV at 74% but ahead of newspapers at 68%. However, when respondents were asked for the most important source of information about their city, neighbourhood, jobs, and “topics that are of special interest to you personally,” Radio pulled only low-single-digit percentages in each city for each category, while print, television, and online scored much higher.
One of the cities surveyed was Macon Georgia which is a radio market I happen to know reasonably well as I drive through it a couple of times a year. Based on my listening over the past few years I can tell you that radio in that market is largely voice tracked and sounds very generic. While there are some good radio stations in Philadelphia and San Jose it frankly comes as no surprise that radio in the USA is perceived by the average listener as lacking local information, and therefore, relevance. You can read the All Access story here.
I suspect if this same research was carried out in most Canadian radio markets the local radio station would rank much higher in terms of local news and local information. But broadcasters in Canada need to be careful not to adopt too many of the American cost cutting measures in order to improve the bottom line and keep the shareholders happy. Radio has a real opportunity to use websites, social media and other tools to create and push local content to listeners in their car, homes or businesses. Heck we can even push local information to smart phones and their iPads. In short radio is well positioned to create great content, and make it available in the format that the consumers want it in. Please don’t make the same mistake that radio in the USA is clearly making in some markets.