PPM Insights 5 Years Later
February 28, 2012
Recently a major-market programmer asked me if the basic assumptions that came out of the earliest PPM data still held true, considering we have so much more information now.
Pressing him to be more specific, he reminded me that when Arbitron went around the country debuting PPM, we consistently talked about the same notable observations such as the shift in daypart ranks, employed listeners consume more radio, and men are heavier radio users than women.
Now I remembered! Building one presentation after another for different markets and the same trends always showed up when electronic measurement came on the scene in 2007.
Since then, the world has changed a bit. Formats have flipped and music tastes have morphed. On a broader scale, consumers are very different. In 2007 Facebook was barely a year into being open to the public and we had yet to hear the phrase, "There's an app for that." Today, the media landscape looks far different.
Conveniently, we now have at least a year's worth of PPM data in every market, and the original markets have been in measurement for five years. So in this month's column I'm going to explore three of those original PPM insights to see what, if anything, has changed for radio.
I examined data from the Oct-Nov-Dec 2011 ratings period for 45 of the 48 PPM markets (leaving out "embedded" markets such as San Jose, which is included in the San Francisco metro) to see if the original observations still held up today.
Insight #1: Midday is the highest rated daypart
Among the substantial differences from the diary service that PPM revealed, the shift in daypart rank was near the top of the list. Traditionally, morning drive had been highest-rated daypart in almost every market. It wasn't unusual to see enormous numbers generated by immensely popular morning shows across the country. Programmers built their stations around the foundation of morning drive, as it "drove" the performance of the station for the rest of the day.
PPM told us a different story. As the first few dozen markets made the transition to electronic measurement, we learned that midday was the top-rated daypart. And by top-rated I mean the daypart with the largest total ratings across the market.
This was a tectonic shift in how we assumed listeners engage with radio during the day. We found that the biggest hours for listening were in the middle of the day, instead of around 8a. Midday ratings on many stations outpaced their diary numbers. This didn't change the basic theory that a healthy radio station has a strong foundation of morning drive, but it did show everyone there were big shares to be had during the rest of the workday.
Today it turns out that for both Persons 18-34 and Persons 25-54, the biggest hours for radio listening have shifted again to even later in the day. Across the 45 PPM markets, afternoon drive is now the #1 rated daypart, followed (in order) by midday, morning drive, weekends and evenings.
Again, this doesn't change the fact that a solid morning show is an important plank in building a successful station and a lasting brand. It does mean that being competitive during the rest of the day is also important.
Insight #2: Employed listeners consume the most radio
Radio is not an overly dominant in-home medium. Its strength has always been reaching consumers when they are outside the home, especially during commute times (morning and afternoon drive) and during the workday (middays). And who is most likely to leave the home on a regular basis during the weekday than people who are employed?
This was an original insight we uncovered when PPM launched. The proportion of total radio listening in the market coming from full-time employed listeners was dramatically larger than those who don't work.
Looking back at the first three months of PPM data for all markets, full-time employed listeners 18+ accounted for 69% of the total AQH Persons during the weekday (6am-7pm). Listeners not employed made up only 22% of the total.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2011 and we find that full-time employed listeners account for 61% of the total market AQH, and non-working listeners make up 27%.
It not surprising that these percentages have changed, considering how drastically different the employment situation is in the U.S. compared to five years ago. Unemployment numbers are higher than they have been in decades following the recession of the late 2000s, many people can only find part-time work and some have stopped looking for work entirely. Socio-economic trends impact every part of our lives, including media consumption.
But 61% of listening coming from full-time working people compared to 27% from non-working listeners is still a substantial difference, and reinforces the fact that radio is a working-persons medium. It's really a great story to tell.
Radio reaches employed consumers who have more disposable income. More importantly it reaches them outside the home and closer to the point of purchase than almost any other form of media.
Insight #3: Men use more radio than women
In addition to radio's bulk of listenership taking place outside the home, we also now know that, according to census data, there is a statistical gap between men and women and their employment status. This gap showed up in the PPM ratings when we first transitioned to electronic measurement. Across all of the markets, male ratings were 17% higher than female.
According to the Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey, 64% of all men in the United States are employed, compared to 54% of all women; that's a difference of seven million people and as a result, the gap in ratings has remained steady with male ratings coming in 16% higher than female across the average of 45 PPM markets. In fact, there is only one market, Memphis, where women generate higher ratings than men.
It's not that women don't listen to the radio, but rather that men simply consume more. And that appears to be a measure of the difference in employment, which we know is a key factor in radio listening.
I realize this might seem counter-intuitive because many of the leading stations across the country in PPM markets skew female: AC, Top 40 and Hot AC in particular. But a deeper examination of the data reveals that the gender composition of these stations may not be as polarized as we think. Remember, PPM captures listening exposure, and there are a lot more men exposed to mainstream, female-leaning formats than we realize.
In the end, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Five years after the largest recession of a generation, employed listeners are still contributing the majority of the ratings in all PPM markets. And, as a result, men are posting higher ratings than women.
The only significant change has been the time of day with the biggest ratings - a shift from midday into afternoon drive. As the years go on we will be continually tracking these habits to see what else changes. In the meantime, I'll be back next month with another column and more insights to help you grow your ratings.