It’s About the Listener, Stupid!

By Andy Beaubien, Broadcast Programming and Research

We recently came across an article by Lori Lewis*** in which she compiled notes taken at the Worldwide Radio Summit last spring. Of the 40 points listed in the article, one common theme stands out. Broadcast radio is not about us it is about the listeners!

While this may seem to be obvious, in our day to day work it is the easiest thing to forget.

We naturally think of ourselves as radio people, a group separate from the rest of the population. This belief can unconsciously creep into our thought processes and it often can be described as “I am a radio star and you are not!” Listeners are expected to tune to our station to hear what we have to say, what is on our minds and the topics that we consider to be important. We are the oracles on the hill to which listeners are expected to come in order to seek knowledge and valuable information. The reality of the radio station/listener relationship is otherwise.

Listeners assume that the radio station to which they listen is focused on them and not the other way around. They look for a station that reflects their lifestyles, tastes and preferences. The program hosts and moderators to whom they are most loyal and whom they most like are the ones who mirror their lives.

Here some are some of the observations from the above-mentioned article:

  • We have to stop thinking of ourselves as radio people.
  • Look for opportunities to be a part of the audiences’ lives.
  • We connect people, creating community and tell stories to make us feel less lonely.
  • Take your radio hat off and talk with the audience, talk with colleagues in your building, talk to people – listen to them and use their language.
  • If you can create content making folks feel a part of something, you will always be relevant.
  • Think like a fan.


One of the most common beliefs among radio people is that we know what the audience wants. If this were true we would have no reason to do research or interact with listeners in any way. The fact is that we have an urgent need to understand our target audience. The process by which we do so is continuous and never ending. Just as the human body needs oxygen to survive we need constant input from our listeners. The means by which we accomplish this are numerous. No one method of listening to the listeners is sufficient. Next time that you have a meeting with your staff members create a list of all the ways that you can tune in to your listeners. The more comprehensive the list, the more effective you will be at understanding the people who listen to your station and upon whom your very existence depends.


***Lori Lewis, Merge – Vice President, Social Media, Cumulus Media and Westwood One.


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