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There is a new generation that needs to be spoken to. Millennials (also called Generation Y or Generation M), will possibly be one of the most influential generations in terms of how communication works. Called Millennials because of the importance of the millennium in terms of their lives, this is the generation that will eventually take the place of Generation X, who set the stage for the information revolution. Though sources vary on a specific age range for this generation, The Kaiser Family Foundation says Millennials can be as young as 12 years old, or as old as 25. They come from all different economic, educational and racial backgrounds; they don't even necessarily share the same social and political values. But what this generation does have in common is the ubiquitousness of the use of technology in their lives.
Portable media devices have allowed Millennials (and other audiences) to store and access vast amounts of audio. The radio in the car is slowly being replaced by the Ipod. Listening to NPR on a Walkman on the subway has evolved to listening to podcasts on a Zune. We are no longer constrained to listen to whatever is on at the moment; we have audio at our fingertips — it is searchable, fast-forwardable, and subject to our whims. We are not forced to sit through content we don't like in order to hear a commentary by our favorite author. We can now skip to what we want and delete the rest.
Radio has to face such juggernauts as podcasting, Itunes, Ipods, Youtube, and Facebook when they are trying to sway an audience, and there are several organizations already doing this.
Probably one of the most interesting and effective initiatives for engaging Millennials in radio is the Next Generation Radio Project at National Public Radio. This project identifies rising stars in college radio news and invites them to radio training projects across the country. These young reporters are paired with an NPR producer in the project city, who then helps them create an NPR-ready news piece. From the initial brainstorming, to interviewing, writing, editing and distributing, these producers follow their young protégés along the way.
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