Home > Ratings, State of research > Closing the Engagement Gap

Closing the Engagement Gap

Fred Jacobs invoked the 80:20 rule this past week to blog about the value of conducting research on loyal, committed  listeners.  He makes some great points. It also struck me that he might be on to something that could help close the PPM engagement gap.

PPM is re-writing the rulebook for North American radio by placing more emphasis on exposure, and less on engagement. Listeners no longer have to be sufficiently engaged in a station to remember listening to it, they only need to be exposed to the signal. And so it is that low engagement, mass appeal music machines tend to do better in PPM than in diary.

That’s not all bad of course. Radio and its advertisers get a better measure of how many people actually hear the station and the ads it runs.

But there’s also a problem: as PPM leads radio away from engagement and towards exposure, more and more advertisers are heading in the opposite direction. They’re upping their spend on digital and social media precisely because these media specialize in engagement vs. exposure. By putting all of its apples in the PPM basket, radio risks falling even farther behind in losing those engagement dollars. Arbitron appeared to be on the way to closing the engagement gap with their “Radio Affinity” research project, then abruptly shelved it late last year.  

That leaves it to stations to reach out to their loyal audience base, and not only find out what would get them to listen longer but also what would encourage them to engage with advertisers.  Doable? I think so.

  1. August 7, 2011 at 21:35

    I totally agree with Fred on this. It’s hard to compare different markets like Australia and the USA, and Australia maintains a full Qtr Hour diary methodology, but our findings line up with Freds thoughts that engagement suffers big time.

    We (Sth Cross Austereo) conducted a Diary Study on this several years ago and discovered that it was more a 70/30 rule…about 30% of our listeners were giving us 70% of our Share. And the average TSL for that 30% sat at around 20+hrs per week, against the Total Audience average TSL of about 7 hours. It didn’t take long to figure that when we did things like Weekly Music research, 60% of those that got a vote in the research were listening for less than 5 hours per week…and yet they had the majority vote but accounted for less than 30% of our Share.

    So we changed our recruitment methodology for our research and discarded the lower listening rungs. We also discovered that most “exclusive” listening happened in the lower TSL ranks. The heaviest FM listeners in our country generally listened to 3 FM stations. While some may think that’s bad news, for us it was an opportunity. While our P1’s might have been giving us 20+ hours a week of listening, they were often giving another station 5 or so hours a week of winnable TSL.

    For lighter listeners who may even be exclusive, they listened less because of social or environmental reasons and it didn’t matter how much better you got, what music you played or comps you ran, they just weren’t in a position to listen to more radio.

    This goes back to getting away from just using the raw, mechanical data that something like the PPM gives you, and spending more time trying to understand when and why people listen to radio in the first place, and then why they listen to you.

    Online research gives you a fantastic resource to dig deeper into listeners lives and habits than ever before, so there is a door of opportunity there.

    • August 7, 2011 at 21:51

      Thanks, John. Great insights on how you’ve been able to keep the needle moving, helping Austereo maintain its dominant position. The focus on heavy-listening P1s vs. light-listening exclusive cume listeners makes total sense. Best to fish where the fish are biting, even if they’re also biting on other hooks.

  2. August 8, 2011 at 12:29

    Jeff, since PPM will be sloooow to continue adapting, utilizing e-mail databases at radio needs serious reinvention. There are a limitless amount of sub-audiences that can be catered to and monetized. This prescribes to my theory of going out and “getting more pie” as the revenue for spots seems to be largely flat at best. And radio should be playing less spots anyway.

    This also allows the ability to really harness a one on one relationship with a database member by giving them something beyond what the terrestrial signal offers. For example, you may find a substantial subset of listeners that enjoy a certain style of alternative music you don’t offer much of on your broadcast signal. Superserve those folks and monetize it. Same goes for non-music lifestyle with, say, lovers of a regional cuisine or microbrew fans. Find the audience, serve it and monetize it.

    Phil Manning

    • August 11, 2011 at 22:41

      Without a doubt, Phil. There are deep verticals lurking in every audience. You just have to find them and engage them.

  3. August 14, 2011 at 16:23

    Jeff, thanks for adding to the conversation. I will have a follow-up soon on our blog.

  1. August 16, 2011 at 01:26
  2. August 25, 2013 at 20:19

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