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Traditional radio remains important with Baby Boomers, who nevertheless display a remarkable ability to adopt new media into their busy lives, according to a recently released Bridge Ratings study of the media habits of Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964.

Previously considered a fairly cohesive psychographic group, Boomers should actually be analyzed as two distinct “cohorts,” according to the study:

  • Baby Boomer cohort #1 (born from 1946 to 1954):
    • Memorable events: assassination of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, political unrest, walk on the moon, Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual freedom, civil rights movement, environmental movement, women’s movement, protests and riots, experimentation with various intoxicating recreational substances
    • Key characteristics: experimental, individualism, free spirited, social cause oriented
  • Baby Boomer cohort #2 (born from 1955 to 1964):
    • Memorable events: Watergate, Nixon resigns, the cold war, the oil embargo, raging inflation, gasoline shortages
    • Key characteristics: less optimistic, distrust of government, general cynicism

According to the most recent Census data, by 2010 there will be 84 million 43-61 year olds in the US. Two-thirds of the Boomer generation belongs to cohort #2 – a significant number of media consumers for both broadcasters and advertisers to focus on.

The following are among the findings of the Bridge Ratings study:

Overall Media Use

When asked about various media they consume in a typical week, Baby Boomers said:

  • They are spending less time reading books, watching movies and reading newspapers than they were six months ago.
  • They have somewhat increased their use of computers and cell phones.
  • Listening to music, reading magazines, using the internet, TV and traditional radio have remained fairly stable.

bridge-ratings-boomer-various-media-use-vs-six-months-ago.jpg

Baby Boomer Radio Loyalty Scores

Media loyalty among Baby Boomers varies widely depending on the medium (respondents were asked “Which of the following media do you consider most important to you on a typical day,” and rated media on a scale of 1-100, where 100 equals “can’t do without” and 1 equals “would never miss it”):

bridge-ratings-boomer-media-loyalty.jpg

Traditional radio had the widest spread of responses, with an average of 47. The highest loyalty scores tended to come from Boomer Cohort #2 (Younger Boomers); Cohort #1 has less loyalty to traditional media.

Satellite radio consumers tend to have both the highest loyalty score and the second-narrowest range, after MP3 players, indicating higher passion.

Weekly Radio Listening
 
Much has been written about how traditional radio has been forgotten by younger listeners, whose experience with new media options will have a dramatic impact on radio’s future. In fact, the younger the Boomer, the more radio-listening attrition.

bridge-ratings-boomer-older-radio-weekly-listening.jpg

In general, Cohort #1 Baby Boomers (ages 53-61) have fairly consistent traditional radio listening behavior. They are generally less likely to be “innovators” or “early adopters”:

  • Around 2.5% of the total population are “innovators,” or those who help drive change and communicate to their friends and relatives about change; less than 2% of Cohort #1 Boomers are innovators.
  • 13.5% of the general population are “early adopters,” or opinion leaders who try out new ideas, but in a careful way; about 9% of Cohort #1 Boomers are early adopters.

However, Cohort #2 Boomers (ages 43-52) are more progressive and active:

  • Approximately 3% of Cohort #2 Boomers are “innovators.”
  • Some 15% of Cohort #2 Boomers are “Early Adopters.”

They are also following the lead of younger generations and spending less time each week listening to traditional radio:

bridge-ratings-boomer-younger-radio-weekly-listening.jpg

Expectations of Use in Six Months

The panel members were asked about intent to listen – “More, The Same, or Less” – to a variety of media, three of which (AM/FM, internet radio, digital player) are plotted on the following chart:

bridge-ratings-boomer-media-anticipated-use-in-six-months.jpg

Among Baby Boomers, all three of those media have consistent use expectations, with traditional radio leading the pack: 73% of the panel expect to be listening to AM/FM radio the same in the next six months. That compares with only 30% of 8-12 year olds.

HD or Satellite Radio?

Baby Boomers have little interest in HD radio for now, especially compared with other digital media: Preference in Internet Radio, for example, has increased to 33% in this report while preference for HD radio has fallen to 1% of the sample.

bridge-ratings-boomer-hd-radio-vs-satellite-radio.jpg

About the study: The survey of 2,588 adults age 43-61 was conducted via random digit dialing on a national footprint between June 8 and July 30, 2007.

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