ORLANDO, Fla. (NRB) – Chuck Finney’s mission for his radio ministry is to “go deeper and reach more hearts, to glorify God by understanding them,” he said during the NRB Radio Summit at Proclaim 17, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Orlando.
During his session on “Why Listen?” Finney, Founder of Finney Media, guided radio program hosts and associates through a set of data about specific reasons people tune into Christian radio stations. He gave survey results from more than 23,000 respondents who answered questions about 72 stations, including teaching and spoken word, music, and talk radio programs. From his results, Finney gave eight specific reactions from listeners around the country.
Each headline explained what listeners hope to hear when they subscribe to or tune into a particular radio station. Finney provided the information and headlines, giving brief descriptions of each one. He began the session with several testimonials from listeners and their positive experiences with Christian radio stations. The survey, though, revealed several areas that Christian radio programs can improve their outreach to a diverse set of people.
He prefaced the eight headlines through the first one, which covered different denominations within the survey results.
“Your listeners are from many denominations,” he said. “Your ministry is multi-denominational, and in those denominations not everyone speaks the same language.”
He used this to emphasize the importance of reaching people in unique ways and according to their denominational viewpoint.
Second, Finney said, “Your listener seeks spiritual growth, but struggles with walking the walk.”
From the statistics reported, more than 90 percent of respondents said they listen to Christian radio for spiritual nourishment. As leadership strives to reach people, this creates an imperative for rich spiritual content.
Third, Finney told attendees, “Your listener aches for encouragement, peace, and calm.”
Next, he explained that listeners “think controversial topics are crucial,” but not when they are listening. While many listeners do not prefer certain topics, Finney said data from the survey revealed many people want to hear news or commentary about human trafficking or persecuted Christians over popular culture or political news.
The fifth headline: “Your listener prefers concise, connective Christian wisdom, plus worshipful music.” He highlighted that “every minute counts” in radio content.
The sixth headline revealed how listeners love their particular show hosts passionately, but they leave “when you’re a yawn.”
Finney’s seventh headline, “Your listener loves your ministry and gives when you courageously teach God’s truth,” led to a reflection on why people financially support radio stations. This is one of the major reasons, Finney said.
He summarized all of the headlines in the final one, saying “Your listener wants you to be like Jesus in tone, music, and Scripture.”
The overall reaction from listeners is a preference for Christlikeness in all areas. This attracts and retains people, but also achieves the goal of reaching hearts and glorifying God through every new endeavor in Christian radio programming.
Later, Fred Jacobs, President of Jacobs Media Strategies, led a session titled “You Are Not Just in the Radio Business Anymore,” giving an overview of the state of Christian radio. He also reviewed a set of statistics from a recent survey, which gave insight into several areas where Christian radio stations thrive and other areas where they struggle to compete with social media and websites like Buzzfeed, a popular news and pop culture outlet.
“Your audience is in control, which requires a new kind of listening,” he said, reiterating that listeners today can click on a song, podcast, photo, sermon, or a host of other media in a single moment. This reality changes the face of radio, he said, and creates questions about why radio stations exist, what their purpose is, and how they achieve that purpose successfully.
Many listeners, according to Jacobs’ survey results, are motivated to listen to a particular station from inspiration, a desire for growth in faith, and because Christian radio is safe for families to listen to together.
Christian radio leadership, though, need to realize that creating content is not just good enough in today’s media-saturated world, he said. Instead, distribution and the way content is executed “is queen.”
With other media outlets gaining popularity, Jacobs said Christian radio stations face pushback from everything in today’s society, not just other radio stations.
All of the survey results point to the need for Christian radio programs to adapt as they reach people in order to capture both their ears and hearts as they listen, impacting them for Christ.
By RuthAnne Irvin
Published: March 8, 2017