It's 2011 ... Time To Go "Pass It On" & Get Back To What Made Us Famous!
May 24, 2011
It is 2011, and it's a shame that programmers who have been in the business for 20 or 30 years have left radio and failed to teach some of the basic information to the young PDs coming up behind them.
One of the most important issues -- not only for PDs, but for managers and owners - is understanding how the ratings system really works ... and where your listeners come from.
How can you find these "very special people" who fill out an Arbitron diary and communicate to them? That could be the difference between making your budget for 2011 ... or losing a ton of money to your competitors.
I recently programmed a station in Los Angeles, population 13 million. We tripled our PPM ratings in six months with 25-54 adults and 25-54 females with NO marketing or promotion budget. How did we do this? I will address that next, but first let's focus on what 85% of the markets in America still have to deal with; the original paper diary.
Okay, let's say your market has a population of 1.5 million people (12+).
First, let's look at how the "book" is done. For the paper diary, please go to the first few pages of the screen if you use the computer view, or the first few pages in the hard copy, where it shows you how many in tab diaries for 12+ you had in your market over the past rating period (13 weeks).
Let's say it was 1,100 diaries ... that's about the normal distribution in this size market.
Then divide that 1,100 by 13, which is how many weeks the survey ran.
That will give you approximately how many people IN YOUR MARKET filled out a diary over the past 13 weeks to make up the results that you hold in your hand today.
Are you ready? Okay ...sit down and hold on ...here is how many people filled out a book among the 1.5 million people in the market ... 846 IN-TAB DIARIES !
Sooooo, how do you find those 846 people out of 1.5 million?
Go to Maximizer and also to Arbitron's "Programmers Package K" for zip code information and diary placement.
It doesn't matter where your P-1s are or where your competitions' P-1 listeners are. What REALLY matters is where ARBITRON's P-1 zips are.
Arbitron has gone to the same zip codes, same streets and same homes over and over again for the past 20 years. It is NOT a "Random Sample" of your market.
Arbitron has specific data on who will participate in the survey for every market that they survey. They keep going back to these people over and over again. They do make a feeble attempt to place calls into the market each survey period. Rarely do they find more than a handful of people to replace their current base of diarykeepers.
This is not an accusation. We found this out when I was programming in Denver and the station did a $950,000 study of people who had filled out diaries. They told us that they had filled out an Arbitron diary anywhere from two to six times over the past five years. Pretty scary, eh?
Arbitron is NOT going to change the way they do business, therefore we as broadcasters need to learn how to play by the Arbitron rules if we have any hope of making money and getting ratings.
Even if you have a top 3 or top 5 station in your market, you still have room for growth. Do the homework and investigate where YOUR P-1 listeners live, work and play, then get out into the community and talk to them, make them feel special, and turn them into even stronger listeners.
First you need to look at Maximizer to see where your station had diaries filled out. Then, cross-reference that with Arbitron's "Programmers Package K" for information on where the diaries were placed during the 13-week survey.
Then find out from these reports where YOUR listeners zip codes are and see if that is where you focus your promotions, marketing, and on-air salutes to the neighborhoods.
So, how does this affect the songs you play and how many titles you are playing at any given time?
Music and How Many Songs Should Be In Active Rotation
I have done auditorium music testing for 25 years, and no matter if it is an AC station, Classic Rock, JACK-FM, whatever, there are NEVER over 350 to 450 titles that give you a strong enough score to play on a regular basis.
I know of stations that are playing 800 to 1,000 titles in their active library.
They feel because of their "special format," or whatever it is, they can play songs that most people couldn't care less about hearing on the radio.
If they had done an auditorium music test, they would have seen there are only a handful of songs that Adults 25-54 want to hear over and over again.
They don't get tired of hearing songs they like being played all the time; it's the ones they don't particularly like that will make them switch the station.
If you are one of the stations with a 1,000-song playlist and doing well, it could be because your competition is doing a horrible job of programming and you're winning by default.
Trust me, if someone comes into the market and does the proper research, they can cut your numbers in half in one or two books. I have seen this happen over and over again over the years.
In 2011, we are now putting a lot of emphasis on "Viral Marketing," such as Facebook. How is this different from the paper diary? This is good if your station is in a PPM market and not a hard diary market.
If you do a GREAT job of promoting your station, especially with outside media, you DO have a chance of moving the ratings needle.
That's because the PPM Meter registers instantly what you are listening to. So if your advertising and marketing are strong and compelling -- and they are in a car when they tune into your station, you are instantly getting ratings. Then it becomes a programming issue to keep these people tuned in and REMEMBER that they listened to your station when they go into to an office, home, etc where they can tune your station in.
If you have 1,500 people who say they love your station, that doesn't necessarily mean your ratings will go up.
Use this information in the "Arbitron Way." Ask these people who like you on Facebook what their zip code is. If they are not in the hot Arbitron zips, don't worry about them ... you can't please all the people all the time. Please the ones you know like you and your station.
Nowadays we are in the business of "NARROW-CASTING," not "BROAD-CASTING." The ONLY people who matter are those that are in the zip codes that Arbitron serves strongly.
That's a tough pill to swallow. We have been told for years that we must get everyone to listen. That's great if they do. However, if they don't have an Arbitron diary (paper), who cares if they listen or not?
Take care of those who take care of you! You can't please all the people all the time. Concentrate on the ones who will "vote" for your station in Arbitron.
Don't get me wrong, it is good to stay visual in the media and marketing, such as Facebook, etc. But just use it in a way to benefit your station. You are NOT going to have all 1,500 people fill out a diary with your station listed as their P-1 ... It just ain't gonna happen.
Now, for the PPM. With this device a person can keep it for up to a year and Arbitron keeps measuring their listening. That means if your market has a high percentage of Rock people who received the PPM, that format/station will do well until they are no longer carrying that PPM meter.
Here in Los Angeles we have over 13 million people, so it is a HUGE task to try to find PPM users. So how did we triple our 25-54 Adults and 25-54 Females in six months?
It took a team effort with my market manager to get the zip codes out of Arbitron and where Arbitron had dropped PPM meters over the past year.
At first they said they couldn't give us that information. But when it got down to it, we pay a HUGE amount of money to subscribe to Abritron and that information is available to us just like it is with the paper diaries in Programmers Package K.
Once we had the zips codes, I was able to cross-reference where the bulk of 25-54 diaries had been placed. Then all we did was place small signs on a stick in the ground at freeway entrances, and signs hung over the freeways that these people use, and I even went on Craigslist in the section "Men Seeking Women" and placed an ad every day for six months that basically said, "Hey, Ladies, there is a new radio station in Los Angeles designed just for you ... try it on for size ... 92.3 FM."
Now keep in mind that recent CALTRANS and DOT info told us that between 5a and 10p there are over nine million cars on the roads in Southern California/Los Angeles. Most radio listening is done "in car" in Los Angeles, so it made sense to use that method to reach our target listeners. We also did on-air salutes to specific areas that we knew had the PPM, such as Long Beach, Chatsworth, Santa Monica, Downey, Anaheim, etc.
So, When Does TSL Really Happen?
First, I must give credit to one of the smartest research people in our business, Dr. Rob Balon. I studied and worked for Dr. Balon at Benchmark Research, which took the "blinders" off my eyes so I could see how people REALLY used radio. It was scary, to say the least. However, since those days, I have been an even more successful programmer and consultant by understanding what very few PDs, managers and owners understand.
Time Spent Listening (TSL) is often thought to be the process of having someone listening to your station for periods of time and having their listening pattern being instantly recorded and/or documented as it happens. NOT TRUE with a PAPER DIARY. Sweeping music across the quarter-hour and other "games" do NOT lengthen TSL.
The average person listens to radio approximately two hours per day and samples three different stations within that one day of listening. Take that two hours per day (which is 120 minutes), and divide it by the three stations they have sampled, and you will find that you have someone USING RADIO for about 45 minutes-to-one hour per day -- NOT all-in-a-row.
They take "snapshots" of your programming throughout the day: A little bit in morning drive, a bit during the workday, and then some in the afternoon.
If you look at your research you will see that after 7p, the bell-shaped curve drops significantly with the 25+ demo as they go to TV, family, movies, etc. Therefore, it gets down to what benchmarks or "triggers" you have built into your programming throughout the day that make your station memorable.
Benchmarks of Success
Why should someone remember they spent more time with YOUR station as opposed to the other two stations they also listened to that day?
Is your product compelling, fun, interesting? Are your jocks making "appointments" with the listeners to tune in at specific times throughout the day for certain specific events, features, bits, etc.? Do you have memorable benchmarks that help to trigger diary recall?
The biggest mistake we make in radio programming today is over-estimating the product knowledge on the part of the listener.
Let me say that again: The biggest mistake we make in radio programming today is OVER-ESTIMATING THE PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE ON PART OF THE LISTENER! We tend to assume that they know everything we do on the air ... that they know about every promo, contest, etc. That is not even close to reality!
Radio is an appliance to the average listener. It is a toaster, a toilet, a microwave oven -- period. The scary thing is that people can (and some do) live their daily life without using radio! Radio is FREE to listen to; you don't have to pay $10 for station "A" and $20 for station "B." Therefore, why should listeners remember what station they listen to?
Music is NOT a strong enough benchmark to make you #1. Don't get me wrong: Music is important, but to reach your full potential in the ratings, there must be more to your station than just a music image or "18 in a row."
In a recent seminar at a major Ivy League college, students were asked to raise their hands if they had listened to a local radio station in the past seven days. Out of the 350 students in that auditorium, NONE raised their hands! When probed, they admitted they used the Internet, iPods/downloaded music, CDs, and VH-1 and MTV.
When asked why, they said there wasn't anything "interesting" on local radio. That, my friend, is a sad statement about our industry and what we do for a living.
If we as an industry don't start getting back to "what made us famous" -- localism, fun, personality, local news and traffic ... "the basics" that listeners tell us over and over again they want from their favorite radio station -- then we are doomed to more declines in ratings and revenue.
We as broadcasters tend to say, "To hell with what they want! We know what radio needs and should be doing." That is the quickest route to the bottom of the ratings stack. GIVE THE LISTENERS WHAT THEY WANT WHEN THEY TUNE INTO YOUR STATION. Meet their EXPECTATIONS.
When someone tunes into your station, they have a certain expectation as to what they will get. If you don't deliver or meet that expectation, they will go somewhere else to be fulfilled.
For example, if you go to McDonald's tonight at 10p and ask for a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, and they say, "Sorry, all we have is beer, ribs and sushi," what would you think? What would you do?
You probably would not purchase anything from them, and you probably would never go back at night to that location. The same is true for a radio station. CONSISTENCY is the key to success. Meet the listeners' expectations and deliver on the promise of being what you say you are. Never make them guess what is on your "menu."
There are about 15 little things that make up a successful #1 radio station: FUN (in presentation and sound), community reflection and involvement, personality from jocks, localism, news and information, lifestyle information (that your P-1 wants and needs to know about), contests and promotions that fit your station's image -- and the listeners' lifestyle. The list goes on and on.
When TSL Happens
So -- here is the answer to the question, "When does TSL really happen?" Over 75% of people who fill out an Arbitron diary do so between 7p and 11p. When a person sits down, pen in hand, and fills out the diary, in that one instant is when TSL is really happening. In that magical moment, they are "un-aided" in trying to recall what they perceive they actually listened to over the past 12, 24 or 48 hours.
What station comes to mind first and why does that specific station command top-of-mind awareness more than the others they have sampled?
Ask yourself this question: What did you have for lunch last Thursday? Can't remember? Of course not. WHY? It wasn't all that important. Right?
Damn! Eating to stay alive is a very important human function, isn't it? So, if you can't remember what you had for lunch last Thursday, then why should you remember what radio station you listened to in the past 24 to 48 hours?
That's right: There is no such thing as "quarter-hour maintenance." Never has been, never will be. That term, in and of itself, means that someone is filling out a diary every 15 minutes all day.
Look at your station and your product as a listener and NOT as a radio person. Don't try to program your station to impress other radio people, corporate PDs, etc. Program your radio station for the DIARY KEEPER IN YOUR MARKET -- PERIOD!