Ratings Are Down ... Was It Me?
April 19, 2016
Many of the same questions come up after a down rating month or book. I get calls from PDs and air personalities wanting to know if there is anything they could have done better.
There are a number of factors that could have affected your station's recent rating, up or down. It could have been music, an image problem, a poor sample in a Diary market, a PPM panel with an unbalanced age factor, misinterpretations of research/Media Monitor, die-hard fans as new PPM panelists, a diary wobble, or maybe you don't have Nielsen's Enhanced CBET (Critical Band Encoding Technology) or Voltaire to help your signal.
Meanwhile there is a trickledown effect and air personalities simultaneously ask if there is anything they can do better. They sit in meetings and hear about the ratings issues and worry about their shows. This week I will address the questions of a personality who previously worked in a PPM-measured market and has relocated his talents to a town measured by the Diary.
Jock: It has been eight years since I worked outside a top-25 city. This is a culture shock and there is so much I am trying to get used to. I want to get back to a larger market, but in the meantime the ratings thing has me all confused. The PPM and diary thing are too controlling. In my last job I was told my whole act did not work with PPM. Now I am being told some of the same stuff here with diaries, but I thought the two were different. I know listeners like what I do because get Facebook and Twitter messages all the time telling me about different things I have done on my show. Or when I do station appearances, listeners walk up and talk to me.
Why is this PD on me about stuff? I think I do a pretty good job. I think all the ratings stuff gets in the way of entertaining the audience. I have also sent you an aircheck for your review. I am trying to understand what is going on.
Coach: Well, it sounds like there are a couple of things going on. First of all, I will give you some info on Nielsen PPMs and diaries. Then I will talk about some things I think you need to keep in mind when doing your show.
Jock: Good, my last PD did not do much with ratings except tell us how we did. My current boss does the same. And I do need some feedback; I have never had consistent aircheck reviews, just a lot of hot line call correcting.
Coach: PPM and diary are both used by Nielsen; PPM is being used in 48 markets and the rest are measured by diary. With PPM it is about the share of encoded listeners exposed to individual encoded radio signals. In a PPM world cume is king and so are those selected to be on a panel to determine ratings for stations. These panelists are the keys to the ratings and can serve on a panel for up to two years. To explain the whole process in detail is an entire column by itself, but I will give you a little more insight.
This is all about actual listening and exposure. The PPM participants agree to wear small cellphone-like meters that pick up any encoded radio audio. In other words, the stations with installed encoding equipment will be picked up by the worn meters.
Diaries are all about what people write down as they keep their one-week glance into their listening habits. It is a week-to-week thing with diaries and there is a fresh crop of people each week to provide ratings information.
Ironically the major complaint for each is sample size. With diaries, a station can have a bad book and recover fairly quickly. Theoretically if a PPM panel has participants who do not like your station, it could be months before things start to look up again. The best thing about PPM are the weekly and monthly reports; they can be used as an excellent research tool for PDs to make quick programming adjustments
Jock: I will take you up on learning more about this stuff, but how does it affect my show?
Coach: Actually it doesn't. Ratings indicate how well a station or a particular show is doing, but the statistics can indicate problems. I listened to your demo and picked up on a few things. What is your target demo?
Coach: Okay, I noticed you talking about some music entertainment stuff that was more 45-54. Unless you are talking about some breaking item that is bigger than life, make sure what comes out of your mouth fits the stations core audience.
Jock: You are talking about the thing I mentioned concerning Journey, I just thought it was important.
Coach: I have a thing about necessary versus unnecessary ...was it really important to mention that information?
Jock: I thought it was interesting
Coach: I really think you really need to reexamine the goals of your station and make sure everything you say meets those expectations. I can tell you that if your PD heard that break, he or she would be scratching their head. Another thing, although your energy levels were good, you seemed uptight with your delivery.
Jock: That could be because the PD keeps changing liners almost daily and I never know what to expect until I get in the studio.
Coach: Don't take this the wrong way, but you need to blame yourself and not your PD or new liners. You are making excuses for things under your control. It is great to hear about a PD who is staying on top of station business. What you need to do is to get to work a half-hour earlier and get into the studio to check what's new before you go on the air. Honestly, I cannot believe I am telling this to someone who has worked in a top-25 market. You and I need to talk about several things concerning your aircheck and the direction you are heading. You have the talent, but I can tell you need a wakeup call concerning your approach to your air work.
The only control a personality has on ratings is how he or she does their job. Over the course of employment, measurement of a jock's show will go up and down depending on a lot of factors. However, there is such a thing as performance regardless of the numbers. The key is to put yourself in a position to sound like your show is a winner. It is a matter of knowing how to concisely entertain and realize you are there to accessorize the music. You have to let go; you can't be uptight and sound great on the radio. To learn your craft, start listening to old and new demos of those considered successful and carefully examine everything they say or do. I am not saying to copy their style, but to find ways to incorporate or work on your skills. Also, find someone who can work with you on your show.
You have to start having fun within the guidelines of programming directives. Get together with your PD and find out what limits you can push. For example, I am not advocating parodies, but before Weird Al Yankovic, some personalities used to put together funny parody songs. Centralized fun needs individualized contributions to add the extra magic to your station. Start reading, thinking, collaborating, and get busy!