Engaging Culture

Yes Christian Leaders: Radio Still Matters

In a world that’s gone Internet crazy it’s easy to convince churches and ministries about the importance of only using web strategies or social media as evangelism tools. After all, with more than 1.79 billon active users, by population, Facebook is now the largest country in the world, which means it’s time to start sending online missionaries and planting churches in that country. Online evangelism is an easy sell to a new generation of pastors and leaders who have been posting their lives online since childhood. But lost in the Internet frenzy is the power of traditional media – particularly radio.

We’ve certainly moved from the era of “mass media” to the era of “customized media.” People want to program their own song lists, podcasts, and online content. Fine. I get that. But it’s interesting that human beings are still random creatures and absolutely love surprises.

In my car for instance, I have Bluetooth, every connector imaginable, plus satellite radio, and I can listen to CD’s, iPods, iPhones – whatever. But as tech savvy as I may be, the thing I listen to 95% of the time? Old fashioned radio. I’m not sure if I can explain it, but the truth is, I like the surprise of not knowing what’s coming up next. And when it comes to Christian radio, I love the teaching, the community news, and updates on what God is doing in my city of Los Angeles.

The bottom line is that we’re finding that in a digital age, traditional media like radio and TV are the last great campfires of our culture. When people are on the web, they’re looking at literally billions of different websites. But when it comes to traditional media, there’s a limited number of radio and TV channels, so trust me – those channels are delivering large audiences. It’s one reason major sporting events, special event programming like the Oscars, or big concerts still draw huge ratings.

The Internet may be getting all the publicity these days, but radio is alive and well. Plus, with digital delivery, radio programming is being heard in more and more places around the world. And when it comes to engaging your community or audience with the gospel, radio is easy to produce, inexpensive to buy time, and reaches people in unexpected moments – like in the car, or in the background at work.

I’ve written before that in the evolution of media, movies didn’t replace live events, radio didn’t replace movies, TV didn’t replace radio, and online delivery won’t replace TV. Every media platform finds it’s own level and reaches it’s own audience. That’s why radio could be an incredibly potent platform for your message.

Want to know more?  We can help.  Radio is not going away, and for the savvy leader, it should be an important part of your media strategy.

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  1. Every medium still has it’s place. New media and legacy media. Mass media has lost some of its mass for sure, but the wise approach continues to be speaking on the same media where people are listening. That includes the Internet, blogs, social, etc. But, it also includes radio and television. And, some people still read a newspaper and some holdouts still read ink and paper books and magazines.

    Do what works. Our most successful clients are using it all. Some even use billboards. I spoke to a local contractor a few weeks ago, and he still gets about half of his leads from… the printed Yellow Pages! They’ve gotten cheaper, so the ROI still works for him.

    A good message delivered through multiple platforms with an integrated strategy is key. There is some good synergy to be found in coordinating the new with the old.

    I leave you with this link to an excellent article about radio from April, 2016 by my friend and advertising genius, Roy Williams.


    1. Great advice Chris. Who thought people still used the Yellow Pages? I love your line: “Do what works. Our most successful clients are using it all.”
      Thanks for posting!

  2. You couldn’t be more right, Phil. I love using social media to drive listeners to an interview and then to give it a shelf-life and share it widely after the fact, but the truth is, without that airtime, there’s no conversation to promote. Just more memes and talking AT people in endless streams or feeds. Love that radio, with its longer-format interview opportunities and laid-back, conversational feel (‘campfire’ is a great way to put it), grants an opportunity like no other medium to really get a feel for someone … for their personality and heart. My favorite platform and one we book an awful lot of at our shop.

  3. Phil, We have had 3 overseas ministries approach us in the last 6 months wanting to know how they can integrate their radio content with internet and cell phone technologies to enrich the content they provide especially to their youth audiences. So we are talking about things like integrating appropriate live streaming, podcasts, video production, blogs, even digital book downloads into their ministry and enhance the listener experience. I think you are right on here…

  4. Over the summer, I moonlit as a driver’s ed teacher. I spent eight hours a day in the car with teenagers. At some point during each 2-hour lesson, I would ask about radio. Very few listened, even to the top-40 station (#1 in our market and targeting their age group). I don’t think radio will ever go away, but I’m concerned about how it will look in 30 years.

    1. As I mentioned to Doug in this thread, the distribution platform may change for radio, but that’s true of all media platforms as technology changes. Personally, my favorite kind of radio right now is Sirius satellite radio. They give it to you free for a few months when you get a new car, and it’s like crack cocaine. Once you’ve tried it, it’s tough to break away… 🙂

  5. I received this email from Mike Novak, CEO of K-LOVE radio: “Nice job Phil. Great insight. About all I would add, and this is from our listeners..I do not pretend to know about ‘others’, radio is not only NOT dead..it’s growing. In addition to the obvious reasons, it’s because ‘we’ as broadcasters have finally caught on to the idea that it’s about the listeners..not us. K-LOVE & Air1 are designed around listener needs and wants vs our vision of what they want. We spend a vast amount of resources asking them..which one do you like most..this or this. Anything that goers on the air runs through this type of grid.
    I also believe that as long as people listen to radio, people have to ‘do it’. Look at all the major players in main stream. They automated/track everything they can and listenership is fading away quickly. Bad programming? Maybe not. But delivered in a very non-human way, with little or no interaction between listeners and content. Ever tried to call and speak to the jock’? Can’t. They aren’t there.
    I could go on and on..but enough from me. Again, nice job Phil.
    – Mike

    1. Phil, (and Mike) That is great input.
      While on Christmas Break I listen to some Christian Teaching stations in Texas and could tell from their breaks that they had forgotten this very key principle – It’s all about the listener- . This morning I returned to our Commercial Christian Station here in Des Moines Iowa and share what I experienced with our Production Manager. We were driven to continue our efforts at being a listener focused (Commercial) Christian Talk radio station. Thank you guys for the great information! Keep up the great work.

  6. This is a great word Phil.

    One of the pastors we work with, and have placed on radio stations around the country, recently launched a new site location for his church in a new city. We’ve been airing his program in that city on radio for over one year. His conservative estimate is that 25% of the 1,200 people that showed up on the first weekend at the new location came as a result of hearing their program on the radio. That’s pretty significant considering they had no physical presence in the market prior to that weekend!

    If your strategy is to grow your local church, radio and television can be great mediums…as well as social media, online advertising, billboards, etc. They all have their place.

    The key is to actually understand how many people (and the demographic composition of that audience) you are reaching with any media investment. This is the main reason we at Dunham+Company subscribe to Nielsen Audio (formerly Arbitron). We need to be able to guide our ministry partners when it comes to understanding how many people they are reaching, and how that audience actually profiles.

    There are audience measurement tools in almost every medium, and we would all exercise our best stewardship to utilize those tools to maximize our investments.

    1. This is excellent advice Trent. Your team advises most of the largest radio ministries in the country, so this is well worth listening to. Thanks for the comments!

  7. I listen to “traditional” radio almost every single day on my drive to and from work, and sometimes before bed.

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