24 August 2006

Tailoring media to an older crowd

Andrea K. Walter (Baltimore Sun) and David Bauder (AP) have complementary pieces featuring John Erickson of Erickson Retirement Communities and his developing role as media mogul. From The Baltimore Sun:
Erickson is in negotiations with Comcast Corp. to start airing this fall a daily, four-hour segment of cable programming aimed at baby boomers under the name Retirement Living TV. He hopes to build the content to a 24-hour stand-alone station. He then wants to move to the Internet and other technology such as podcasts.
From Associated Press:
Retirement Living will air "Amazing Seniors," about the achievements of people after they've retired from traditional jobs. Erickson also wants to set up a "Meet the Press"-style public-affairs show, and have programs on personal finance, travel and fitness all directed at the age group … Erickson said he could fail, like most TV startups, but he could also awaken a sleeping giant. "I think you'll find that everybody wants to talk to this market," but nobody yet has pulled it off, he said.
I won't comment on the shows because I haven't seen them (although this doesn't stop some media experts and pundits). I will say that I admire Mr. Erickson and his team simply because they're doing it.

However, the word 'retirement' might scare off Baby Boomers. It smacks of 'old' and 'irrelevant.'

Not too long ago I was talking to Marc Middleton of Growing Boldera web site, radio show, and other good stuff under wraps at the moment. Originally Marc named his
umbrella company The Active Aging Network. I said that he should dump the word 'aging.' Now it's the Active Living Network. Much better.

I'm not taking credit for this. Marc no doubt talked to other people about it. I was probably one in a handful of sounding boards.

I hope Mr. Erickson finds some good sounding boards—along with an eclectic mix of vibrant, creative Baby Boomers to produce, write, direct, and edit his network's offerings.

Retirement Living TV

The Erickson Tribune

Erickson School of Aging Studies (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)


  1. Thanks for writing about us, Chuck. I always enjoy your comments.

    You make an interesting point about the negative perceptions that surround the word "retirement." Too often, American pop culture does treat this word as synonymous with "old" and "irrelevant." John, Brad Knight, and the rest of us spent a lot of time discussing this as we branded our offering. We decided that at the heart of our mission was redefining the very word retirement. We see this as a public health initiative - the negative myths that surround aging (ie irrelevance) have a real and deleterious affect on how America ages. We plan to use various forms of media to smash those myths. We want people who hear the word "retirement" to think of an active, vibrant, and valuable period of your life. We can't accomplish that without embracing the term. It's a lofty goal perhaps, but no more so than the mission that John defined for us:

    Retirement Living will inform, inspire, and involve our viewers in order to improve America’s images, attitudes, and perceptions of aging.

    Our entire team is dedicated to meeting the challenges that John has set for us and we're moving forward with speed. We'll get some screeners out to you for your thoughts.

    Keep up the great work.

    Pat Baldwin
    Retirement Living

  2. Pat --

    I’ll simply disagree with you about the name. And I know that the word ‘retirement’ ties in with many of Erickson's other companies and projects.

    The bottom line is that the name of your network isn’t particularly important -- the offerings are. You know that, I know that. If someone is flipping around and finds a good show, or hears about a good show through word of mouth – or the show gets some good press – nobody watching will care what the stations is – or the network that is supplying the content to the station.

    It’s good to brand your umbrella name. But it really doesn’t matter what it’s called if there’s nothing worthwhile underneath the umbrella.

    My hope is that you have one or two breakout shows to get it all rolling. Then the shows will define the brand. At some point you might decide to change the name of the network to reflect the perceptions of your viewers.

  3. Pat: For your consideration: Me to host "Press the [Rip van Winkle] Meat!" Yes, Mr. Erickson, the boomer and beyond demo is a "sleeping giant" just waiting for the Kiss of Life. And I'm the Geezer Radio Poster Girl who smacked down senior stereotypes while cohosting Geezer Radio. It's like nobody believes I'm in the demo. Hard to get those senior citizen discounts. Fun to watch their faces, though, when I whip out my ID! Irreverent, serious (ex-network radio and TV anchor in the DC market), SENIOR! Marty Davis

  4. Okay, let's get serious. I agree with Chuck about the name "Retirement Living." Doesn't ring my chimes. Chuck's right, though. If the shows are compelling and stimulating, the buzz and viewers will follow. Given my experience in the media and talk radio -- which cable TV is, in essence -- the ratings-grabbing programming should be personality driven rather than content driven. I wouldn't have said that 10-15 years ago. Nielsen numbers out this week show the continued graying of TV viewers. "Retirement Living" is competing with the high-rated "reality" shows and other programming with a lot of flash and little substance. The reality here is that RL requires stellar production, talent, content, and marketing. Marty Davis

  5. RL has to decide who it is targeting. Active, vital boomers or the perception of "retirees." Boomers born between 1946 and 1964. The youngest at 42. Mr. Erickson makes reference to the appeal of the baby boomer demo. What's he want: retires or boomers? Let's deconstruct the
    words "retirees," "retirement," and "retired." RE-tired. A high negativity factor, in my opinion. Get a focus group reading on those words. It's just like the reaction we got to Geezer Radio. In hindsight we should've invoked boomers. The word "geezer" is negative. -- Your humble correspondent Marty Davis

  6. "Geezer" never bothered me. It's tongue-in-cheek. As are the other two media projects I blogged about recently: "Hot Flash Cafe/Boomer Babes" and "Boomer Broads with Attitude."

    It will be the shows that matter at RL TV - personality or content-driven, they had better be good. Focus on that.

  7. Here's a post from April :

    click here

    I was in LA at a business conference a few days before Dychtwald was at the Beverly Hilton. I hosted a table at an author's luncheon - and the head of sales research of Nick@Nite and TVLand sat himself down next to me, said he'd read my book, had doled out 5 copies to his sales people.

    They understand over there.

    Some new interesting numbers and info:

    Washington Post article

  8. Good stuff, Chuck, thanks. Please check us out on the web - we stream live through our partner's site, www.cn8.tv. Noon - 4:00, Monday-Friday. Let us know your thoughts.


  9. Kudos to John Erickson and his team! These folks seem to be real "myth busters" in their approach to "retirement."

    It's refreshing to see that at least one organization in the entertainment business has finally recognized that -- lo and behold -- people over 50 really DO watch television!

    Now... if only the Neilson rating service... and the big networks... and the big ad agencies... and their clients recognized this fact... Well, that's probably not gonna happen soon.

    Meanwhile, I wish Erickson and crew the best. It looks as if they've picked a winning demographic to influence... one with some money to spend... us geezers!

    Eric Voth
    Principal, Boomer Ventures, Inc.

  10. I watched bits and pieces of shows yesterday. Looks pretty good.

    But every time I heard the word ‘retirement’ I cringed. That was a lot of times.

    I know there is some cross-branding going on with Erickson Retirement Communities. I don’t think it’s worth it, however. Even if you keep the name of the network, do your best to banish the word 'retirement' from copy and scripts.

    Take a cue from AARP. Years ago they dumped their ‘name’ – meaning, it’s no longer an acronym for “American Association of Retired Persons.” It’s simply AARP:

    People also do not have to be retired to join. In fact, 44 percent of AARP members work part time or full time. For these reasons, AARP shortened its name in 1999 from the American Association of Retired Persons to just four letters: AARP.

    My prediction: The 44 percent will be 75 percent in ten years. For various reasons, Baby Boomers are not going to retire en masse like the last handful of generations.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.