Caroline Groff, Staff Writer
“The radio isn’t even the radio anymore.”
Hearing this while sitting in the second-floor offices of St. Louis’ 105.7 The Point—and the words coming out of the station’s marketing promoter—is not the first indication that the state of radio is shifting. The entrance to these offices is found in a strip mall, hidden behind a strangely placed fountain between Il Bel Lago and a Cycle Bar. The elevators lead to an equally curious glass window where a receptionist tiredly buzzes folks in.
The candid marketing promoter is Matthew Chambers. He has been with The Point since 2004, after graduating from UMSL with a mass communication degree. He now sits in an office with posters of Pointfest’s past littering the walls and a TV in the corner above an extra desk quietly playing the Cardinals game.
For the past 15 years, Chamber’s has worked at the Point and a brief period with KSHE 95, their sister station. As he spoke about his early experience driving the station truck back in his 20s, another man barges in and takes his claim of the empty desk in the corner. “That’s Joe. He’s in charge of the website,” said Chambers. Joe smiles with a short wave before putting in one earphone and turning to his computer.
Joe has become vital to the station in recent years. “Fifteen years ago, it was important but now Joe does a heck of a lot more than just a website,” said Chambers. The technological side of the station has become equally important, if not more so, as the presence of internet and music apps have risen. It isn’t just other stations The Point has to compete against, but a whole new side of media. And one that is not only broader and more personalized, but more accessible. Radio just isn’t there, at least in the physical sense.
“For instance, you don’t have a radio in your room, or probably at all,” said Chambers.
Joe turns in his chair and decides to interject at this point. “Nobody does,” he said. But after a short pause he adds, “Actually I do have an FM radio. It’s in my garage.”
This seems to be the case for most people. The accessibility of music streaming allows people to listen to any playlist, on any device, anywhere. Unless you listen to your favorite radio station through an app, your only real option is your car’s radio. Even this has started to seem obsolete with the rise in cars with Bluetooth capability.
However, even with the growing number of outlets for media, there is somehow still a large space for radio in the landscape. It doesn’t seem that stations are very much worried about a lack of listeners, but rather of advertisers. Since the stock market crash in 2008, radio has struggled across the board and created a sort of funnel. While there may still be a lot of money to be made in the market that amount goes down more and more every year. “When there’s less [money] than 10 years ago, you have to be more forward thinking about how to chance down those dollars,” said Chambers.
This is where presence on social media and other platforms created more breathing room for the station. Much of the success The Point has seen in recent years comes from places outside of the station itself. Whether it’s the radio host’s social media or interaction on the website, they can draw advertisers in with other opportunities to have their ads seen. Advertisers choose these routes because they know loyal fans will trust the products these hosts talk about.
Listeners who have grown up listening to the station find comfort tuning in to hear a too-perfect for-radio voice come through the other end. This hardcore fanbase is what marketing teams cater to and nurture. For The Point, these fans range mostly from 18 to 49 years-old and male. However, the average listener is closer to 49 than 18.
“Since I grew up in St. Louis and I’m a 39-year-old man, I’m basically marketing to myself. So, my job is easy,” said Chambers. With last year’s Pointfest banner hanging behind him, he explained the turnout of the demographic.
The festival does see those new 18-year-old listeners that like rock, but mostly shows the audience aging with the bands and the station. Radio isn’t dead yet, but it is dying in the same way everyone does. The market does show plenty of money and the high percentage of loyal listeners, but what happens when the audience stops growing old with them? While young listeners are heading toward the unlimited possibilities of streaming, the future of radio seems optimistic but uncertain.
For as long as there have been new waves of technology, there has been radio. And in every instance where people have thought that radio was dead, it has lived to fight another day. There is one certainty to this that keeps Matthew Chambers optimistic:
“Today…eh…we’re doing alright.”