Formatting For Females In 2012
January 17, 2012
Hemlines Affect Bottom Lines
One of the things that Urban and especially Urban AC stations need to do better in 2012 is to strengthen our stations' appeal to females. Of course both formats need to be a little more upbeat. But we also need to treat and talk to our adult females in a warm, friendly and real manner. And we need to update the production library. Use music that sounds like the jams we're playing and use them creatively. We want imaging that speaks to the female, not at her.
Surprising Daypart Differences
Recent studies have shown and Arbitron's PPM has proved that mornings are not necessarily the most listened to day part anymore. Extreme competition from morning television talk shows and listeners flexing their time into work has cut deeply into AM-drive cume. Since much of the Urban and Urban AC battle is fought at work, why blandly slight middays? They can be the station's most important day part. Do stations attempt to ignore or downplay middays simply because seemingly, it's more cost-efficient? You have a live local or syndicated morning show that costs you a fortune either in salaries or commercial inventory or both, and you voicetrack middays? What's up with that?
I would argue that warm and friendly live midday and afternoon talent, men and women who are involved in the community, are just as important an investment as a team of envelope-pushing comedians in morning drive.
Next, we want to examine what prizes do females really want? Until a few years ago, most programmers, including me, would have said "cash conquers all." And while cash is always going to be important, as is the way you give it away, recent studies have shown that females get off on other things. Which promo sounds stronger on the air? "You win $1,000 cash." Or one that says, "A limo will whisk you away to an exclusive pre-show martini party where you and three friends will get a complete makeover. Then we'll send you to the VIP section to see Anthony Hamilton and Jill Scott live. Plus a chance to meet them backstage and take pictures." The answer is obvious.
The best promotional money is spent giving your female listeners an experience they can't buy for themselves. It's another type of theater of the mind. Yes, it's harder and more involved to put together than writing out a check, but being creative with your promotions will make your station stand out from the pack.
Maxing Marketing Under PPM
Marketing is going to be even more essential in 2012 and beyond. Show me a station with no marking budget and I'll show you one that underperformed last year and maybe the year before. There are ways to make the most of your time and marketing budget. An e-blast to your P1s certainly has great monetary value, but your database will shrink if you constantly bombard your P1s with nothing but sales pitches. There has to be a benefit to receiving those e-mails, Facebook or text messages. And you can't let the sales department take over and simply assume that's effective marketing. Whether it's a special ticket presale, first chance to enter a contest or a secret link to a #1 promotion, make sure each e-blast has some real value to the listener or they'll simply opt out.
At the same time, your website must reflect what you're saying and doing on the air. An out of date website (and we see a lot of them) is useless and is another missed opportunity to make a lasting impression. Tease a contest on air and lead your listeners to your website for more information. Tease the fact that an e-mail will be sent out tomorrow with a special code to buy those tickets you want -- early and at a discount. There must be seamlessness among on-air Web, stream and database. If there's not, you're missing a huge marketing opportunity
Now we want to look at some female-targeted programming strategies that can help ignite the ratings under PPM. First, and we've been saying this for years now, you can't take your female P1s for granted. We used to be able to do that and get away with it in the diary world. With PPM it's all about your P1s and P2s and how you appease them.
While intensely loyal, P1s were more forgiving under the diary methodology. At the end of the week, they would still write you down even though you did a lot of bad breaks, played the wrong songs or offered a weak contest. The meter captures actual listening behavior not diary-keeper recollections of what they heard or thought they heard.
Arbitron has committed to a number of initiatives which are intended to improve the quality of their PPM panels. These initiatives are designed to help Arbitron recruit hard-to-reach segments of the population including cellphone-only households, those who rarely or never answer a landline and those who do not have a telephone. They are also designed to better reflect the geographic composition of PPM markets
Here are some other improvements Arbitron has made and will continue to make in 2012. One of those is in-person recruiting. In-person recruiting enables Arbitron to reach potential panelists they may not have been able to reach through phone calls, mail or other means. In-person recruiting is currently used in high-density black (HDBA) and Hispanic Areas (HDHAs) in 24 PPM markets. Going forward they plan to begin expanding in-person recruitment in other markets. Before the end of the year, this expansion should include in-person recruitment to all PPM markets, including HDBA and non-HDHA geographies.
Arbitron Geo Zones & Address-Based Sampling
Last year, Arbitron introduced enhanced sampling controls in PPM markets with a finer level of geographic control. "Geo Zones" are clusters of zip codes nested within a single sampling unit. They are designed to improve the geographic proportionality of the sample over time by enabling Arbitron to select or replace panelists based on smaller geographic areas. Starting in March of last year, Geo Zones were introduced in all HDHAs. Going forward, the use of Geo Zones will be expanded to all PPM geographies.
Arbitron currently samples PPM markets using a "hybrid" method of random digit dial (RDD) telephone sampling from households that answer their landline phones and address-based sampling for harder-to-reach households, such as those that only use cell phones.
Going forward, Arbitron is scheduled to transition to using only address-based sampling as the starting point for selecting PPM panelists. Address-based sampling is designed to improve the representation of a panel by including cell phone households at their naturally occurring rate and providing for more control of the sampling process. Arbitron will continue to use a combination of telephone, mail and in-person methods to recruit panelists.
Obviously, much of the programming we've included in this editorial applies to males as well as females, but it's important to target females as a valuable first step on the road to ratings success in the new year.