With all the digital opportunity, it’s easy to slide right by radio. You turn it on when you scoot into the car, but the thought of you being heard there in any way, even for an interview, is pretty far down the list of dream possibilities. And even though you listen, the word on the street is that it is dying or far gone. But wait. What’s the reality? Not sure?
The first step to considering your place in radio is to have at least some knowledge of the current state of radio for the different Christian formats.
So, let’s start with a few definitions, then look at three surprising truths about Christian radio in 2018.
Definitions. Christian radio, like all radio, has a format. That means what the station chooses to air hour after hour. For example, is it country music songs or all political talk? In Christian radio the two major formats are Contemporary Christian Music and Spoken Word (sometimes called Teach-Talk). Sometimes, these combine. There are other formats—Gospel comes to mind, but these don’t predominate like the two main formats throughout the country. And a tech reminder: Although these stations air over the air, most also have a digital stream and presence.
With this clarifying information in mind, let’s turn to some possible surprises.
First, Christian radio is the fastest growing radio format in the U.S. since 2002. The total combined formats have grown from under a total of 3% of the listening audience to about 6.5% of the listening audience. Something good is happening to cause the growth! The number of stations is large. Although the manner of counting varies making it a bit challenging, the number is at least 3,328 total according to radio-locator.com.
Noncommercial stations are generally booming and healthy. Their sharathons (days given to raising money on-air) generally are meeting goals and bring in enough money to fund the growth. The biggest group, the organization behind K-LOVE, is this type of group, as is Moody Broadcasting, one of the largest with a number of Teaching Programs. Stations who only rely on ad sales or ad sales combined with selling program time vary in health, some doing well and some facing challenges.
The audience desires are overtly spiritual. When asked in a nationwide listener survey,* 78% of music listeners and 91% of Teach-Talk respondents said that a main reason to listen to Christian radio was to grow spiritually. A statement that a main reason to listen was to understand Scripture found great acceptance as well, with 82% in the Teach-Talk audience.
This last surprise may be your main reason to gather more information! You care about the spiritual view of life—and so do listeners to Christian radio.
More research can help you here. It’s noteworthy that the Global Media Summit will host a session focused on just that. Dr. Jennifer Epperson from Moody Radio Broadcasting is the speaker. Here’s part of the description.
The session is called “From Research to Radio Reality”. Do you want to make your research data work for you? Are you interested in making sense of it? More importantly how do you “practical-ize” it?
Those are important questions. Consider attending this track when (of course!) you attend the Global Media Summit.
There are always surprises when you dig into the details regarding a particular media source. And with this information, and more coming at the Global Media Summit, you are better equipped to begin a discussion on the radio segment of the media spectrum.
*Data from the 2016 national Finney Media Why Listen?® survey that had more than 24,000 respondents.
Jan Shober is a media analyst, blogger and Vice-president for Strategy for Finney Media, specializing in helping you create experiences that cause your audience to come back for more.
Jan began her media journey as a ten-year old with a neighborhood newspaper—and continued shadowing her love of words to work in radio. She spent time in South America working in international media and about twenty years with Focus on the Family first in creative for audio then in distributing media.
Her big reason for her work? Her life mission to help more people grow in Jesus. See more about Jan’s journey at: http://finneymedia.com/about/our-team/