Alan Burns and Associates

With Religious radio—which includes the likes of Teaching & Variety, Contemporary Christian, Gospel, Southern Gospel and Black Gospel—adding up to a staggering 3,742 stations in the U.S., there is nothing niche about the format. And yet it is still considered, perhaps, “special interest.” In a new blog post, consultant Alan Burns tackles the topic, “How can Christian Music stations increase audience?”

Earlier this year, Alan Burns and Associates conducted perceptual research and focus groups to help Christian broadcasters determine the best strategy for adding listeners. His research shows that it is “totally possible to grow the weekly cume to 50 million from the current national cume of 32 million,” although he adds, “the format may have ‘milked’ the P1 audience for all its worth.”

A significant part of the growth potential for Christian stations comes from delivering compelling content for current non-listening 35-54s without alienating the core, Burns writes in the column. “The connecting thread is content and language that focuses on creating a tone of ‘makes me feel good,’ ‘picks me up’ and positivity.” This can come from upbeat music, positioning language that accentuates the hopeful, joyous tenor of a station, and conveying fun through topic selection and attitude of a station’s personalities.

There is also the mindset of Americans that may play into tune-in. Burns notes that the nation is dealing with tragedies like the El Paso and Dayton shootings every day, while “media in 2019 is inundated with negativity in headlines, on TV and radio, and divisive conversations on social media. We are being drowned in bad news.”

This presents an opportunity for Christian radio to offer “a dose of ‘feels good’ and positivity,” Burns says. “People need to be uplifted and encouraged. They need to have fun and laughter. Delivering on a basic need can increase weekly cume and time-spent-listening.”