But it's in Radio that at least part of the problem, the demographic decline of young White people, is clear, and unmistakeable. Likely, no better example can be found than in LA's "Indie 103.1" short lifespan, and replacement by Spanish-language format.
Indie 103.1 began broadcasting it's Punk/Alternative mix in late December 2003, and flipped to Spanish Language radio in January 19, 2009. Over the short, five year lifespan, the radio station was featured on the Fox show "the OC" and on the MTV prank show "Punk'd." Always in competition with rival station KROQ 106.7 FM, the station nevertheless featured Punk/Alternative personalities like Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Joe Escalante of the Vandals, and Dickie Barrett of the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones as DJs or on-air personalities.
With a population of 17 million or thereabouts, it would seem that there would be more than enough listeners for both KROQ and Indie 103.1 to survive. After all, Los Angeles has two all-news AM stations, KFWB and KNX. Why not two Alternative/Punk stations? The answer is simple, there simply are not enough young (White) people in the LA Metro area to sustain two stations.
To get a flavor of the full list of LA Radio stations (familiar to anyone driving in and around Los Angeles), I've compiled the listings below from the sources here, here, and here. The listings below give the FM stations (note some, like KUCI 88.9. FM are clear only in limited areas, while others have strong signals). LA's mountains and valleys make reception iffy in some areas, and transmitters may operate under reduced power making geographic spread smaller than in say, flat and open Dallas. Reduced signal strength allows both KUCI and KTLW (operating out of I believe, Antelope Valley) to share the same frequency. The LA Metro area is a big market. Some stations also broadcast over the same frequency but with different call signs, but the same simulcast programs.
|KTWV||94.7 FM||English||Smooth Jazz|
|KLOS||95.5 FM||English||Classic Rock|
|KLSX||97.1 FM||English||Adult Contemporary|
|KYSR||98.7 FM||English||Adult Contemporary|
|nina||99.1 FM||Spanish||Hip Hop|
|KOLA||99.9 FM||English||Adult Contemporary|
|KKBT||100.3 FM||English||Hip Hop|
|KJLH||102.3 FM||English||Urban Contemporary|
|KIIS||102.7 FM||English||Top 40|
|KOST||103.5 FM||English||Adult Contemporary|
|KBIG||104.3 FM||English||Adult Contemporary|
|KPWR||105.9 FM||English||Hip Hop|
|KGMX||106.3 FM||English||Adult Contemporary|
|KTYS||107.9 FM||English||Hip Hop|
The AM stations are listed below:
|KMBR||530 AM||English||Easy Listening|
|KHTS||1220 AM||English||Adult Contemporary|
Immediately, two things pop out from the list. One is the predominance of Spanish-language in the FM band, a band formerly reserved for well, Anglo music, be it Rock, Classical, or Jazz. Secondly, the dominance of Spanish language and Asian language radio in Los Angeles's AM bands.
The two graphs below illustrate this:
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[click Image to enlarge]
Several other things stand out. As anyone who has listened to KCRW, or KKJZ knows, public radio stations are not exactly commercial free. They have frequent pledge breaks, where say, KCRW General Manager Ruth Seymour urges listeners to pledge dollars for various goodies and so on. In between music, public affairs program (such as "To the Point With Warren Olney") or news, sponsors run frequent "image building" ads touting their "responsibility." It's straight out of "Stuff White People Like" (the blog and book) or ABC's "the Goode Family."
Nevertheless, without the Public Broadcasting presence on the FM band, it would probably have more Asian and Spanish language stations in the LA area. There are at least five Public stations on the FM band in LA (KUCI, KCRW, KUSC, KKJZ, KPFK, are the ones I know). It is telling that in a metro area of 17 million people, there is only one major Classical station (KUSC-FM) and one major Jazz station (KKJZ, formerly KLON-FM, Long Beach). Both broadcasting out of universities (USC and Cal State Long Beach, respectively) as Public Broadcasting Stations.
Next, it's the nature of the successful radio stations on the AM band, that are NOT either Asian or Spanish language. There are six sports talk stations, and seven talk radio stations that are in English in the AM band (station XEPRS 1090 AM is included because South Orange County picks it up from San Diego). Those are nearly the numbers of the Spanish and Asian languages, and account for 56% of the English Language AM stations. That number rises to 65% if you throw in the two all-news stations, KNX and KFWB.
What does this tell you?
In a marketplace (AM, which is totally commercial, no Public Radio) where reaching listeners equals operating profits or losses (if your station does not reach listeners), owners choose mostly English language Sports, Talk/News, or Spanish language, or Asian language formats, with a smattering of oldies or Christian formats in English thrown in.
The LA Almanac here has some interesting data. You can see that several things are immediately apparent. First, that there are more Hispanics than Whites in LA County (unfortunately, there is no source that aggregates the multi-county areas of LA Metropolitan region, including LA, Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino, and Ventura counties). This alone drives up Spanish Language stations, and under-reporting (lots of illegal aliens not counted) could lead to substantially higher numbers of Hispanic/Mexican consumers that advertisers selling cola, candy, and other low-cost consumer goods would want to reach. There are also a substantial amount of Asians, more than Blacks in sheer numbers, accounting for Asian radio. It's likely that the amount of Asians has only increased since the 2000 Census.
But also, well just how OLD LA County is with respect to it's White population.
The graph below (aggregated ages 20-21 for sake of smoothing out age cohorts) shows WHY Indie 103.1 failed. Men and women aggregated together do not cross the 200,000 threshold until the late 20's at least. Moreover, there are few young people in the pipeline, take a look at the younger White Angelino cohorts. There's not that many of them. Even assuming that the cohort increases post college (people move to the LA Area), there still is not that many of them. Note also, the slight but decided greater numbers of men, particularly in the late twenties through thirties, over women, among LA County Whites.
[click Image to Enlarge]
Many things Indie 103.1 did during it's broadcast existence puzzled me. The emphasis on Trader Joes sponsored Morning Show Wine Tastings. The use of minor celebrities like Timothy Oliphant and David Lynch to do morning sports and weather. Looking at the demographic breakdown by age cohort, it makes perfect sense. Indie tried to grab the small amount of Yuppie Whites in their thirties and forties and FAILED. EPIC FAIL.
Yes, no doubt Satellite Radio played a part in the demise of Indie 103.1. But note that the station posted negative results in the Arbitron ratings after the recession started to hit, just when people would be looking to escape from costly Satellite Radio into free FM.
It seems there just weren't enough Alternative Yuppies to make Indie 103.1 a go against KROQ, and certainly not enough younger kids (Indie 103.1's 80's Nostalgia Wave makes retrospective sense) to drive newness and sensation seeking to the station. The stations that ARE successful are those that cater to the demographic bulge, around the thirties through the fifties, and the older population that is at least as big as the younger one. Itself a shocking change from what we conceived as "classic" America from say, the 1900's onward through the 1960's, with each generation of young people getting bigger than the cohort that went before.
Now, it gets smaller each generation.
For those traveling through Los Angeles, who wonder why LA radio is a barrage of Spanish, Asian, and not much else, the graph below shows it all:
[click Image to Enlarge]
What are the broader lessons from the failure of Indie 103.1 FM?
One: Your demographic slice your media targets must be large enough.
Two: White America is older and more conservative than the Yuppie model of "Stuff White People Like."
Three: There are not many young Whites, most young people are Hispanic.
Four: Youth-oriented media mostly fails.
Five: Betting it all on Yuppies with lots of money is a bad long-term bet, because there just isn't enough base population of Whites to generate enough Yuppies with money. A recession can kill the business.
Six: The biggest slice of Whites ages 30-59 seem to like Sports and Talk Radio, much of the latter overtly conservative.
Seven: Radio is the reverse image of Television, it's male dominated, with male personalities in Sports and Talk (and even Alternative Rock DJs during drive time). There is nothing like "the View" on AM or FM LA Radio.
Eight: Much of the Yuppie entertainment infrastructure in current radio is a Public Broadcasting anomaly. Making the Yuppie Radio presence bigger than it appears. Since most Public Broadcast stations depend on pledge drives plus NPR subsidies to operate, not ad revenues based on ratings.
But it all boils down to much of White America is older, and more conservative, than you'd think. Certainly compared to the Hispanic population, which is much, much younger.