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The Fundamental Differences between Christian Radio and Other Formats

Of course, all radio formats have their differences. And yet there are so many fundamental differences between Christian radio and all other stations, that the differences are worth noting.

Background vs. Foreground Media

Everyone knows that radio is mostly background media. This means that 80% of whatever you're doing while listening to the radio is not listening to the radio. You're doing something else, and you turn on the radio to give your ears something to do at the same time. Hence, radio is in the background, and any spots on these stations are going to be consigned to the background as well.

There are only three radio formats that tend to not be relegated to the background - talk, sports and Christian radio. That's because these are all fundamentally information media. Audiences of these stations generally have their attention riveted to the content of the station itself. Fortunately, spots on these stations enjoy the same foreground status as the format in which they are embedded. There is something that feels "safe" about advertising on a radio station where the listeners are really listening - not just hearing.

Information media

As we all know, radio is mostly about music. The exceptions to this, once again, are talk, sports and Christian radio. Now granted, only half of all Christian radio is talk. But even Christian music is different than secular music because of its message That is, it is message-oriented music.

But consider this - spots on Christian radio stations are more like the format that they are dropped into than spots on secular stations. After all, spots are information, not entertainment. Since radio is mostly entertainment, this means that radio spots generally impose an interruption to the reason that people tuned in (just like television). In other words, radio spots instantly change the format of any station that they are on. Unlike secular radio, Christian radio is as much information as it is entertainment, so, once again, spots are part of the flow. There is less of a "tune-out" factor with Christian radio spots, because they represent essentially the same "format" as the station on which they appear. Whether Christian stations are talking or playing music, their listeners are always in a state of high alert, and this is a phenomenon that secular stations cannot equal. Christian radio listeners are in a highly attentive state even when listening to the music, and segueing from the music to the commercials does not require the mental readjustment that so many music stations require of their listeners.

The Halo Effect

Simply put, Christian radio transfers its halo to everything it touches. It is a well-established fact that Christian radio listeners would rather purchase something if it is advertised on "their" station. In radio advertising, the word "loyalty" is greatly overused. The fact is that most stations cannot justify the claim that their audiences are loyal. And why should they be? Not in the 21st century. People are fickle when it comes to media. Christian radio is different, because when your decision to listen to a particular station has risen to the religious level, you are, without a doubt, now defined as a loyal listener. Moreover, this describes virtually every person listening to a Christian station. Christian radio listeners transfer their allegiance from the station to its sponsors, simply because of the advertiser's association with the station. This is a loyalty that local advertisers hear about from every radio rep in town, but which only Christian radio can actually deliver.

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Instant Demographics Articles by Dr. Gary Crossland
© Instant Demographics. All data Simmons Market Research Bureau. Used by permission. Instant Demographics is a research firm dedicated to studying the demographics, lifestyles, media habits and buying habits of the Christian market. Each year, Simmons samples approximately 100,000 American adults. From this universe, Instant Demographics extracts approximately 12,000 individuals who are in the Christian market. More information can be acquired at, or by calling 405-563-6000.
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