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The Power of Christmas Radio

February 4, 2020

By now you’ve probably read the article in Inside Radio concerning the recently released Holiday survey.

The article provides some interesting insight. Specifically, how Christmas music drives P1 listening. People come to these stations – in droves – and make it their “favorite,” if only for a while.

The question is – how do we harness this enormous listener passion?

The point of this blog is not to discuss ways that a Christmas station can retain that noticeable listening bulge. They can’t – the erosion is inevitable. I flipped WASH-FM in Washington, DC to all Christmas for the first time in 2001. The station has continued the tradition with amazing results. However, it, like so many others, has failed to keep a significant portion of that new audience in subsequent surveys. If anyone ever solves that equation they will retire very quickly.

What Christmas music shows is that radio remains viable. That if a station can fill a need that listeners are really passionate about, it can reap huge rewards. Sure, Christmas is a one-off that has a built-in fan base.

You know what? So is the NFL. We work in a lot of NFL markets. It amazes me to see that, in the age of 65-inch high definition TVs, listening to most of the radio flagship stations rises dramatically every football Sunday. Don’t believe me? Check out the Kansas City numbers.

What other entertainment/advertising medium can do this? That can harness this passion and turn it into revenue?

I am not suggesting that stations use something like Christmas music to jack up their rates (though TV does that quite effectively for the Super Bowl).

We can use this as an opportunity to show the viability, the utility, and the value of radio advertising. We can use information like this to stop the constant drumbeat of radio’s imminent death. We can use this to show radio’s appeal – across multiple generations.

Sure, radio needs to self-generate more passion with its user base. But, this is the beginning of a conversation. One that we all should be having – in our stations and with our advertisers.

Radio gets way too much bad press. We are considered an anachronism. We are anything but cool.

Yet – we work. People listen. Advertiser messages are effective.

I’m not saying all is perfect. We have put ourselves in this situation largely through self-inflicted wounds.

But, to paraphrase Monty Python: “We’re not dead, yet!”

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant