The Mirage Of TSL
July 23, 2013
Against the flow of the empirical, reality doesn't change: lifestyle dictates the amount of time someone spends with your radio brand as opposed to PPM or Diary trickeration.
For program directors, the time spent attempting to affect TSL is a case of plastic knives versus steel swords. We regularly see PDs caught up in a mal-distribution of effort; affording time and resource toward plastic knives ... things that can't change the way someone listens. So here's a sobering proposition for those who see it through the scope of tradition: Directly affecting TSL is a mirage.
The myth has long been influenced by what Audience Development Group refers to as Radio-think. In that mindset PDs are stuck believing listeners pay close attention to radio; listening in huge clumps of time, hanging on every nuance to which they're constantly bombarded. While it's a nice idea, in fact listeners Radio-think would have us believe we can actually manipulate or stretch TSL through clock-tricks or contest teases alone, "forcing listening" just a little longer.
Radio-reality re-plots the course, offering us an altogether different steel knife that suggests beyond intelligent PPM-influenced clocking, not much else can be considered an anodyne. No matter how great a show or a song at 9:03 might seem to a listener, you're not going to entice Jill to be 10 minutes late for a management meeting. Using a set category as an opener out of a spot cluster won't guarantee someone will listen through the spotset if they simply don't have time and choose not to. Of course valuable programming fundamentals are important, but none of them guarantee bending listeners' daily habit.
Then, there's format polarity. If someone is a heavy-deep* P-1 (as described by Arbitron), devoted to Country, there's no chance of a format preference transplant. Cute and clever imaging can't and won't rearrange someone's music orientation. The wider a format's demo and gender appeal, the larger the weekly trial. Still, a Triple-A P-1 will remain so, with only small amounts of weekly time-exposed to other formats. This is a fact and the fact is irrefutable.
Radio-reality also dictates that people sample us when they're in need of mood service or escapism, coming to us because we keep a promise. PPM or Diary measurement, the challenge is to turn your thinking inside out; concentrate your efforts on the decisive point of battle: listener lifestyles and tendencies, then work back from them. Shed the old belief you can change patterns with Arbitricks and token enticements. Working from perceptual or focus projects, you can define listeners' predispositions toward key benefits; music style-coalition at the head of the list.
Using some of the newest social media offensive strategies that go right to a listener's home, family and weekly patterns, you can begin to build your brand working from the listener-back. In other words, be the radio brand that understands its listeners versus the old way of talking at them, telling them how much they'll love a contest. Put the "you reference" in everything you do.
Build your programming development -- including talent coaching -- around the person in the bull's-eye in the center of the target instead of spraying and praying for a wider field of impact that can never give back.
Super-serving your heaviest P-1s instead of over-serving the fringe is the secret to cultivating more TSL through more daily occasions and daily time-exposed.
You win through listener habituation made possible by your understanding their world and the sound-craft you create to enhance it. The best stations we work with understand this concept and work to stay on their listeners' minds even when they're not listening. It's an entirely different set of focus. Steel beats plastic every time.
*Arbitron now divides "P-1" listener body into two classifications: heavy-deep P-1s create up to 60% of your time spent listening.