Why Political Ideology Matters... To MUSIC Radio
November 5, 2012
Just when the political spot buy business goes abruptly this week from feast to famine, at least for another year or two, and you thought that’s all you needed to know about politics and your music radio station… Well, not so fast. Here’s a question for you. If you have a MUSIC radio station, do you know the political ideology of your audience? What is it? How is it like or unlike the rest of your market? And why are we asking you this question? If you are a music radio station with no personalities who have a political bent, why does this even matter?
Here’s why it matters. We are, of course, in a time when Radio needs to identify and serve our best and most loyal customers, who are giving us the fat TSL’s now and project to be steadfast believers and users well into the future. This raises a fundamental inquiry, which NuVoodoo’s national Radio-user studies have been exploring: One, are there key consumer attitudes about Radio that correlate strongly with station loyalty and long TSL’s? And two, assuming we can identify those attitudes, can we identify which groups are more likely to hold them, and are thus profile as our best customers moving forward?
So here’s the result: We have identified two key consumer attitudes that each strongly correlate with loyalty to and longer TSL to a favorite music radio station. The first is having high trust in at least one radio station (AM or FM) as an info provider. The second is believing that, as an industry, Radio is doing a good job of serving consumers.
These beliefs are not, however, consistently held, across the ideological board these days. It turns out that each of them are held most strongly by listeners who define themselves as “Very Conservative,” and least strongly by listeners who define themselves as “Very Liberal.” Thus, like it or not, these days, a music radio station whose natural target audience skews particularly conservative is likely to reap some marginal advantage in loyalty and in TSL compared to a competitor whose audience skews particularly liberal. Not because of anything those stations do in their air product, but because of the raw materials, the consumers, they are working with. Stations that target market segments with higher levels of belief in our medium, period, are starting with more durable raw materials. And in this case, that means the conservative listener who believes more in Radio.
Higher Trust in Radio for Information = Higher Loyalty/TSL to a MUSIC Station
Now, you might think, intuitively, that the more he trusts a station for information, the longer a listener listens to his favorite spoken word station. And you’d be right. But the less-expected other shoe is: the longer, also, that he will listen to his favorite music station. The reason is not complicated, it is simply not the way we have grown accustomed to thinking. We had always thought the consumer question was one of station image vs. station image. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the Radio medium itself has images and identity. And the threshold consumer question becomes more of comfort with Radio, period. Sure, we say, these days, any consumer can compartmentalize: getting music from us, and info from elsewhere. But it looks like it really doesn’t work that way. The consumer who does not have high trust in our medium when it comes to information is also the consumer who is less likely to declare a favorite music station, and when he does, is less likely to give that station a long TSL.
…And These Days, Conservatives Trust Radio More For Information
Trust in radio information clearly increases as one moves rightward on the political spectrum. While 37% of the Very Liberal have high (5-6) trust in their information station, 62% of the Very Conservative feel that way.
Belief in Radio In General = Higher Loyalty/TSL to a MUSIC Station
Listeners who think Radio does a good job are also, not surprisingly, the listeners who give us the big TSL’s. Among those who agree with that statement, more than one in three spend an hour or more a day with a favorite music station, and only one in eight doesn’t have a favorite music station. Meanwhile, among listeners who disagree, fewer than one in five spend that hour a day or more, and one in three doesn’t have a favorite music station.
…And These Days, Conservatives Believe More In Radio In General
The great news in the chart above is that even among the Very Liberal, Radio enjoys a strong consumer-service image. But there is an undeniable ideological skew. Among the right wingers, the approval:disapproval ratio for Radio’s job performance runs at about a 10:1. Among the left wingers, that ratio drops dramatically to about 2.5:1. Not that the liberals are negative toward radio. They do include larger pockets of discontent, but on the whole they are just much less positive than the conservatives.
What this means to you
First of all, what it does not mean. It does not suggest that a music station that has not previously had an apparent on-air ideology should consider introducing one. The risk of alienating many existing listeners who thought they liked you far outweighs the reward of pursuing music-loving right-wingers. The only music stations that have good business reasons for having an ideology are those with a political morning show and/or a lifegroup that is significantly politicized in one direction, e.g. Triple A, Urban, Contemporary Christian, and any Country station in a red state.
What it does mean, first of all, screaming very loud, is that running cross-promos for your music stations on your co-owned Conservatalk spoken word stations is a very good idea, and all the music stations in the cluster should be clamoring for that inventory. The myth is that Talk users listen to less music. The reality is that they listen to more RADIO.
What it also means is that if you are a station whose natural audience does skew conservative, you have a bit of the wind at your back. If it does not skew conservative, you have more of an uphill climb. Your audience will be less inclined, as you find them, to have good vibes about radio. This puts more of an onus on you to overcome those biases. The station with a target audience that hangs to the left needs to think more about making an objective of building stronger institutional trust. When our consumers are not as sure of the good intentions or reliability of the medium, all we can do is rebuild that trust, one consumer at a time, at the station level, and we should. The station that is oblivious to this need, especially if it has an audience skewing liberal, runs huge risks. Regardless of how well it delivers its music product, if it does nothing else, it may be allowing growing biases about the medium to get in the way of its success.