Lee Abrams is a programming genius. You probably know who he is. If not, look him up. Lee is one of the most forward-thinking yet grounded programming minds of this generation.

Recently, I discovered a video of Abrams explaining how today’s audiences behave. He presents it in a simple, straightforward style. And it’s brilliant.

Here’s the video. For those who would rather just read the highlights, read on.

Lee Abrams Video Summary

The premise is that today’s audiences are composed of four specific psychographic groups, ranging from young to aging and culturally sophisticated to unsophisticated.

Here is a summary:

Culturally Sophisticated Analog Generation. This is a thoughtful, cerebral group. They love to discover and explore new ideas (restaurants, ideas, etc.) but are not influenced by games and contests because it’s not worth their time. Their radio listening habits are environmental, as they usually are doing something else while consuming media. Most lean liberal (as opposed to progressive) and their tastes are solidly rooted in their formative years of 16-20, explaining the success of concert tours from classic artists like Paul McCartney and The Eagles.

Culturally Unsophisticated Analog Generation. These are the folks that play Publisher’s Clearing House and try to be Caller #10. They are influenced by slogans and claims. Lee describes them as “gullible”. They embrace the familiar and tune out anything unfamiliar. They’re not tuned into new trends and don’t really care. Most lean conservative. And importantly, they embrace “Junk Culture”, meaning they can’t get enough of low-hanging fruit content like reality shows.

Culturally Sophisticated Digital Generation: This group has a dark outlook on life and always seems on edge. They see through everything and are not influenced by marketing tricks and are suspicious of slogans (Home of the Best Music). Shallow claims don’t work on them. They are streamers, progressives (Bernie Sanders), and currently forming their cultural tastes. This group has strong feelings about things they love (it’s awesome) and hate (it sucks). Abrams compares them to the young generation of the late 60s and early 70s in the Vietnam era.

Culturally Unsophisticated Digital Generation: This is mostly made up of teens and pre-teens. They have low attention spans, operating at hyper-speed. They are addicted to their phones and react to anything that is immediate (NOW) and in-your-face. Junk Culture is their life, from the Kardashians to the Biebs. They just can’t get enough of it, as long as it’s immediate. This is the generation that has their own language (OMG, BFF, etc.).

What Does It Mean For Radio?

These groups are diverse. But there are certain defining characteristics shared by each of the four groups, including:

Authenticity: They sense when marketing and content is not designed for them. And they resent it and punish brands for it. 

Focus: Brands will not be successful trying to appeal to multiple psychographic groups. Pick one or fail. That means it’s not possible to be “kind of” for one group but spread the appeal by borrowing tactics that might appeal to another. It won’t work.

Over The Top: A recipe for failure is to be half-committed. You must be all-in. Anything less will not be noticed and never get traction.

Get Fans, Not Cume: Radio prides itself on big cume numbers. And look how that has impacted TSL. To remain relevant, we must refocus on a strategy to recruit true fans, not just folks who use the station as a utility.

Unbiased: This is key. The brand must stand for certain values, but not try to cram an agenda down the throats of the audience. They will reject it. Perhaps this (along with Rush’s passing) is why conservative talk radio stations have struggled recently.

Be Appalling And Appealing

Lee Abrams points out that choosing a strategy to focus on winning fans of a psychographic group by being authentically all-in will result in a high appeal to that group. But it will be appalling to each of the other three. Not just “I don’t like it” but “I hate it and reject it”.

That will scare some broadcasters. But it’s essential to earn fans. To truly succeed, you must delight the target audience. And in doing so, you will alienate the rest.

That is why great radio shows that truly make a difference generate complaints. It’s why complaints are good. The Zone Of Mediocrity awaits those who refuse to take a stand and become entrenched with their audience.


Which psychographic group makes up most of the radio audience? And which group are most stations targeting? The answer should be fairly obvious.

But that’s why it’s so important.

There’s nothing wrong with targeting any of the four groups as long as the commitment to winning loyalty is unwavering and every single element passes through a filter to build the brand around values that will appeal to the target. Even if that means it is appalling to many others.

The Lee Abrams video is 12 minutes of deep thinking presented in a simple, easy-to-understand manner. Programmers and managers should watch this several times and be inspired to find meaning as it applies to each station format.

Image Credit: Variety Magazine Online

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