Alan Burns: Top 40's Ratings Surge Explained
Plus Exclusive Commentary On The Data For All Access Readers
July 27, 2012 at 3:51 AM (PT)
ALAN BURNS AND ASSOCIATES presentation of Top 40 audience research TODAY (7/27) suggests that the format's recent ratings surge is related to Hip-Hop's decline. CEO ALAN BURNS commented that "Hip-Hop's appeal to women declined from 2010 to 2011, and then nearly disappeared in 2012. As Top 40 has played less Hip Hop in reaction, the format's numbers have grown. Hip-Hop interfered with mother/daughter listening, but TODAY's poppier sound has broadened the format’s appeal."
"Top 40 is always more successful when it isn't too extreme," continued BURNS.
While Pop and Pop-rhythm sounds continue to dominate popularity among Top 40 listeners, another change that has occurred is that the popularity of music by artists like KELLY CLARKSON, PINK and ADELE has increased in appeal. "That's helping both mainstream Top 40 and Hot AC," noted BURNS.
Another finding from YESTERDAY’s webinar is that the biggest difference of winning Top 40 stations in PPM versus their in-format competitors is that the PPM winners have much larger images for entertaining morning shows. "While 'more music' is useful strategy for challengers, it isn’t correlating strongly with winning," said BURNS SVP JEFF JOHNSON.
With the Presidential election looming this FALL, the BURNS study also asked women who they'd be most likely to vote for -- OBAMA or ROMNEY. "Gen Y'ers and Top 40 fans lean heavily toward OBAMA," said BURNS. "Two-thirds of the format's P1s told us they're registered to vote, more are planning to become registered by the FALL, and as of late SPRING OBAMA would beat ROMNEY by a 25-point margin. That's all subject to events between now and NOVEMBER, but OBAMA has a huge head start with younger voters."
BURNS AND ASSOCIATES surveyed over 2,000 women for this year's national study of women's Radio, Music, and Digital Media attitudes and behavior. Results are being revealed in a series of free webinars presented by TRITON DIGITAL, with next week's "Deep Dive into AC and Hot AC" wrapping up the series. To register click here,
Exclusive Comment For All Access From Alan Burns
"Someday soon we'll find out if Top 40's 'institutional memory' has improved over the last few years," said BURNS. "I say that because right now the format has lots of great pop music to play, and it always does best at times like this. When the pop music supply wanes and/or is overtaken by some extreme, the format suffers as it did in the '80s when it got too AC/wimpy... the early 90s when some stations adopted too much Alternative... and the later '90s when the format indulged in too much Hip-Hop. In the last two years we've seen the audience’s interest in Hip Hop decline, and poppier sounds grow ... so Top 40 is in the sweet spot right now. What will happen when the next fad comes along? With more corporate memory and more older programmers, I think the format will do better next time. We'll see."
BURNS adds, "Here's the state of Hip Hop right now: nationally, its appeal lags ... even with 2000s Gold material (except in certain WESTERN and SOUTHWESTERN markets). Did the audience lose interest or the product decline in quality and freshness? I’ll let you debate that."
"Meanwhile, if you have a GM or sales person who’s complaining about your Top 40 station's repetition, tell him/her this: Winning Top 40 stations have a higher repetition image than their competition," said BURNS. "That’s one of the most distinct differences between #1 and #2 Top 40 stations. Here's the key difference we see in cume images for stations like KIIS, Z100, and other winners: The #1 Top 40 has a 2:1 advantage over the competitor in 'most entertaining morning show,' while the #2 station dominates in 'a lot of music without a lot of talk and commercials' -- which tends to be the logical strategy when attacking heritage Top 40s with established morning shows. The reason personality beats more music? Because the heavier radio user, and more committed to her P1 station she is, the more personality matters to a Top 40 listener."
"Another clear difference is that #1s have a very clear lead in promotional/advertising/seen around town images," adds BURNS. "It's about share of mind, even in PPM markets. Where’s your station vehicle right now? Regarding promotions, there’s data here that reinforces contesting's importance: Top 40 P1s are more likely to be contest participants than other women, and almost half of the actual diary and meter-keepers we’ve talked to have tried to win a radio station contest in the past twelve months. That’s a 55% higher rate than average."
"We also see that when it comes to prizes they’d try to win, listeners don't necessarily make a rational dollar-for-dollar analysis," said BURNS. "For example, just as many women would try to win free gas for a year -- which costs around $2,400 (your mileage may vary) -- as would try to win $5,000. That 'irrational' reaction is why prizes you could never buy -- like meeting that favorite artist -- are so effective."
Continued BURNS, "Speaking of reactions: the odds are that one in every five of your top station’s P1 sent at least one tweet TODAY. Did your station do anything worth tweeting about? Lots of people have asked how important PINTEREST has become important to Top 40. The answer is mixed; about as many women visit PINTEREST now as use TWITTER, but TWITTER's leveraged reach beats PINTEREST. Both, of course, are still dominantly overshadowed by FACEBOOK."
"Finally," wraps up BURNS, "your Top 40 station is always trying to stay on top of what’s happening musically, right? So are your listeners: 82% of Top 40's P1 consumers say one important reason they listen to radio is to find out what music’s popular. They can infer that from hearing what songs you play most often, but is one countdown a day, late at night, enough to satisfy their desire to know if they like the 'right' stuff?"