Why Doesn't Everyone Have a Favorite Station?
December 9, 2013
Almost always, when a radio station conducts music or audience research, a key question it asks is, “What’s your favorite station?”Â
When phrased that way, the question will typically get an answer from most respondents.Â And yet, when the same respondents are asked the identical question a couple of weeks later, like when they show up for a music test or when re-contacted as a callout respondent, a fairly large percentage names a different station from the one they originally named.Â Many stations will look at these data and come to one of three conclusions:Â (1) These respondents are either lying now or were lying before; (2) These respondents are disloyal and fickle; (3) Wow, this market is really in flux right now; or (4) whoever recruited this sample must be fudging their data to pack the room with warm bodies.
In fact, the real explanation is usually none of the above.Â You are asking a question that assumes a fact that you take for granted, but that you never actually established.Â It’s a little bit like asking, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”Â The problem is that that they never beat their wife in the first place.Â Similarly, a whole lot of consumers simply do not have a favorite station.Â That’s just not the way they think. Â It is the way Radio people think.Â We think everyone has a slot in their brain labeled “favorite station.”Â Why should they?Â Yet you phrase the question in a way that urges them to name one.Â So of course somebody who didn’t have a pre-determined favorite station might name one this time we ask and another the next time we ask, but in fact nothing has changed for them between these two occasions!
So let’s take one step backward, and ask the threshold question.Â In NuVoodoo’s most recent national study of Radio listeners 18-54, we took all the respondents who listen to music radio, and asked them:
As you can see, in every demo tested, only 2/3, or fewer, of music radio listeners say they actually have a favorite station.Â That percentage is slightly lower among Women (59-64%) than among Men (66-67%).Â The remainder simply don’t think about it that way.Â It just doesn’t seem important in their real lives for them to declare partisanship to a radio station.
So what is behind these “No” votes?Â Let’s dig a little deeper.
It’s not that these consumers aren’t into music radio as a thing.Â It’s just that they aren’t brand-loyal.Â In fact, as you can see in the above chart, nearly half of them (green) say they enjoy more than one station, with no clear preference.Â Nearly one in four of them (yellow) just don’t think in terms of stations.Â And only the remaining folks, slightly more than one in four when added together, choose one of the three responses that suggest a negative reason for not having a favorite.
What this means to you
Clearly, the fact that they total more than one-third of the Radio audience means that “unaffiliated” listeners carry a lot of weight.Â They will make up a lot of your TSL and have a great deal of influence on your ratings.Â It would be a huge mistake to write off or disregard a huge chunk of your cume, in your research and marketing, simply because they say “no” to the threshold question.Â And it would also be a huge mistake to ignore this fact and try to force a choice.Â Insisting on “partisanship” measurement is a “product producer” mentality.Â It is not thinking like your consumer.
CORRECTION TO OUR 11/25/2013 COLUMN:
NuVoodoo’s 11/25 column in this space included an unfortunate proofreading error.Â The entire column, as run, is correct, with the exception of the final sentence.Â The final sentence should have read: “As a result of these three trends, the Talk audience continues to vote overwhelmingly for Radio over TV, with no reversal in sight.”Â NuVoodoo sincerely regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.Â