The Secret Of Longer Listening Spans
October 25, 2011
Flow & Consistency Are Key
Urban formats have survived a wave of new technology, a new rating measurement system, a sick economy and owners who simply want to cut costs. The format's storied past is as vivid as it is memorable. Now as we begin to wind down 2011 we want to look at some of the lessons of the past and how the results can be applied to the future. One of those lessons and secrets is an illusion created by the proper application of flow and consistency.
Experts agree the trick to longer listening spans is flow. Great content, consistency and flow can make a big difference, even with a little budget. Combined, they can help build cume. The best way to capture new cume is to make your station as mass-appeal as possible by playing the very best feel-good music and constantly delivering the most compelling content between the jams.
Radio, regardless of format, is arguably not the first choice among some younger demos for getting new music and lifestyle information. So the question becomes: Are we in danger of losing the ears (the meter wearers and diary keepers) of Generation Y or Jones? And, if so, how do we get them back?
The answer is that we have to stay attentive. There have always been fragmentation of disposable time in the Urban format, whether it was Internet, Pandora, iHeart, iPods, satellite radio, eBooks or Netflix.
The current subscription models, even as they continue to gain in penetration, still have relatively small audience caps relative to the reach of terrestrial radio. Up until now, Urban radio has always successfully co-existed with self-programmed entertainment devices.
Now we've got to remember that we can't execute our way to excellence without a blueprint. Part of that blueprint should include attracting Hispanic listeners who like Urban jams. America's Hispanic population is now over 43 million and growing. Hispanic origin and age figures recently released by the Census Bureau include Hispanics who may be of any race and accounted for about one-half of the national population growth.
Working-age Hispanic adults (18-54 year olds) totaled 184 million nationally. Some 63% were in that age range. The proportions who were members of this age group ranged from 66% for Asians to 61% for blacks and Hispanics. These heavily weighted Hispanic listeners can make a huge difference in your station's overall numbers.
Now is the time to follow up on your hunches or the results of your latest perceptual studies. If you think your late-night jock might do better in middays and the research seems to support that theory, now is the time to make that move. It's all part of effective daypart indexing. This is a comparative technique developed by Arbitron to assist programmers in determining what dayparts are helping the station and which ones are not.
Your station's total share of audience is actually made up of multiple shares for each daypart. In other words, an average of morning drive, middays, afternoon drive, evenings, overnights and weekends. By creating an index that compares each daypart to the overall average, you can see which time periods are under or over-performing and then make necessary adjustments.
Another factor to consider in daypart indexing is daypart relativity for each format. In other words, every format has its uniquenesses and anticipated performance curves. For example, middays on some mainstream Urban stations are often lower than other dayparts. The reason is that those indexes often favor stations (such as Urban Adult) that target at-work listeners Monday through Friday. This disparity is inherent to the format itself and should not be cause for concern.
Keep in mind daypart indexing is a great equalizer of information and a good way to look at your at your station, to see what's pushing you forward and what may be holding you back. It also provides a standard point of comparison that brings each day-part's contribution into sharp focus.
Leveraging Listener Benefits
With the diary and especially PPM, building great ratings depends on being able to consistently promote ahead to improve flow, extend TSL and even build quarter-hours. You should never go into a stopset without teasing ahead. Giving listeners something to anticipate creates aggressive momentum and flow.
You increase TSL by constantly selling listener benefits. Doing this makes the show and the station more interesting and helps to create longer listening spans. One method I really like is one in which you have live liners that sell one of the station's unique qualities several times an hour. This aids listeners to better use the station and gives them more reason to listen later in the hour and into the next daypart.
Another secret that can result in longer listening spans is effective use of new media. If you're an air personality, it's no longer enough to roll in five minutes before your shift, host your four hours and roll out. These days, it's not just what happens on the mic that can make a difference --although that has to be there, too. It's also how you interact with listeners on social networking sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter. They can go a long way toward making your show popular and should be a necessary and required part of the gig. Studies show these sites are not just vehicles to promote a show, but also a tool to solicit feedback, test potential on-air topics and engage your fans on a whole new level.
New media has helped to create fresh opportunities for talent and programmers. Not only has it given many personalities a platform to share thoughts and feelings beyond what they do between songs, but it's also given them an opportunity to grow their personal brand. Many jocks have more to say than what the ramp of a song allows -- and blogging, Facebook, Twitter etc. have opened these doors for sharing and engagement. Depending on how you use them, social media can incite tremendous passion for your brand.
Finally, marketing to potential listeners by using social media is also an important key to maintaining and growing audience. Invest in your product to reach potential new audience and then once you have them, use the above tactics and secrets to increase listening spans.
Urban radio's greatest strengths still lie with popularity of the artists whose music we play, combined with our on-air performer's execution. In a world where success is often fleeting, the toughest job is maintaining format structure and balance so we can create longer listening spans. We still have to hustle to develop them and then we have to make them flow, not so they will fit in, but so they will stand out. Because when they stand out, we stand out. As programmers we have to understand and then be understood.