Radio for a new generation

Ken George, blogging for my local NPR station, WBUR, has some interesting thoughts on “New Millennials” and radio in his ConverStation blog.

The post jumped out at me because one of the blogs he quotes sounded like I could have written it myself:

In college, I listen to less news radio, mostly because I don’t drive anymore. But I faithfully listen to the This American Life podcast every week, and am a recent convert to WNYC’s RadioLab, which I also listen to via podcast.

I had never thought before that I might be exhibiting “New Millennial” behavior. Of course, my need to have content fed into my ears at all times is quite different than my parents (also avid NPR listeners) who generally don’t want to consume media and do something else the same time.

Radio is one of the only media formats that people above the age of 30 do consume while doing other things. We can keep our eyes on the road and listen to the stock market numbers (unless it’s this week, then we should all pull over). We can cook dinner during “A Prairie Home Companion.” We can listen to a new song and make out on a first date. Hurray for radio!

The thing that New Millennials like me probably enjoy less about radio is that it’s so gosh darn local. I can’t reliably get my favorite college radio station, WERS, outside of Boston. A station’s ability to stream live on the web does change that, but might not necessarily benefit the radio station. I worked in a dark, gloomy basement computer lab one summer, and became obsessed with Southeastern Louisiana State’s radio station, KSLU. Unfortunately, their news, events and advertisers had almost no effect on me. Since I won’t go to a live concert, or a furniture sale, in Hammond, LA, people like me (listeners outside the local area), don’t make a compelling case to sponsors to donate at a higher level.

It is possible that I’ll start to have more of an interest in local politics as I become more rooted in a single community. Right now, news about property taxes in Massachusetts on WBUR doesn’t really do it for me, since I don’t own property and don’t know if I will settle here for good. It’s also possible that the radio landscape will shift to meet my generation’s specific type of media consumption – namely nonlinear, constant access, and loaded with content-rich goodness.