September 27, 2011
One thing that hasn't changed with the advent of Arbitron's PPM is what listeners dislike most about their favorite radio station. The biggest complaints and the ones that can cause huge tune-outs are still clutter and repetition. Yes, there could be sub-sets within these, but for the most part, that's what listeners say they hate most.
Again, perception is reality here. Despite the complaints, listeners keep listening. They still listen through the clutter and the repetition. But the question is for how long? And the answer is until something better comes along. Or maybe just something that is perceived as better surfaces.
At a time when syndication is growing, staffs and resources are thin and the pressure is on, live local air talent that is still in place must step up. The coaching and talent development may be in short supply, but there's never been a better time for talent to take control of their careers and their brands. Today, because of all the multimedia exposure, when we speak of compelling content, a generous dose of surprise and variety now share the stage with familiarity and comfort. Format enhancing content and "hipness" are still key.
Urban-formatted stations, for the most part, are still music-intensive, rolling 12-13 songs an hour. But we need to add plenty of listener-generated content as well. Knowing where to trim the "phat" is important, especially in markets measured by PPM.
Too much "phat' affects your Time Spent Listening (TSL) and cume. With PPM, your P1 TSL and cume ratio are what's going to move the needle. But it's less about TSL and more about the number of times you get listeners to tune into the station. We obviously want them to listen as much as possible when they tune in, but it's also about the number of occasions we have. With high daily cume, we have a lot of occasions. Naturally, stations with more cume are going to do better, but realistically what Urban stations have to do is get the audience to listen as many times or as frequently as possible in any given day.
Remember the little things that are important to the audience. For example, people still really want to know the title and artist of a song and be able to search for a station by format.
When they want the latest traffic information, where do most listeners go first? Radio. Two-thirds of the adult audience is at least somewhat interested in rush-hour traffic reports. Naturally heavy commuters are more likely to be interested in traffic reports than those with a lighter commute. And listeners in cars are really button-pushers. It's not just three deep as we used to see with diary measurement, but more like six or seven deep. It you don't give your commuting listeners the traffic information they need, even if they love your music, they're simply going to push the button and move on. And they're not going to look for traffic on your website.
Which format's listeners care most about traffic reports? News/Talk followed by AC. Rock is fifth. Urban/Urban AC are eighth. Listeners in all formats want to know the best ways to avoid traffic problems. During drive times, you might want to consider long sweeps as a high in-car listening strategy. What else can we do to get listeners to give us a pre-set? Consider creative pre-set strategies, potential partnerships with new and used car dealers.
Some high-commute areas of the country have greater needs than others. For example, listeners in southern California are spending more and more time in cars. One future strategy might be to expand your appeal among 18-24 year-old males, and aggressively target this vital segment. There are some composite-hour theories and concepts that can help you there.
Sales & Buying Decisions
Now let's briefly look at in-car buying decisions that can result in sales. Recent studies have shown that the questions regarding listeners and listening starts with the idea that "when" is the critical variable rather than "how many?" In other words, advertising effects can also be affected.
Strictly from a sales angle, for those targeting consumers close to purchase, PM drive is the most logical time target. Workers make many stops on the commute home. Two out of five consumers don't make the decision to shop until the last minute. An in-car commercial can deliver immediate results for an advertiser. Who are the heavy in-car consumers? Households with $90K annual income or more and that includes males aged 35-49.
Urban radio, just like other music formats, is in a constant state of change. Yes, you need to cut the clutter and with today's audience exposed to a much wider range of songs, music tests have to test a wider range of music, and include more fresh songs that may stretch the boundaries of the format.
Finally, today's Urban and Urban AC stations need to be willing to not only adapt to change, but look for it in all the right places. If we don't find it, it will find us and some of us will be unprepared.