Posts Tagged ‘radio research’

“Who cares if radio survives? Something else will happen.”

November 13, 2011 2 comments

This is one of my favourite new quotes. It’s from Ira Glass of public radio’s “This American Life” in a recent public forum.  Though I’m sure a few folks who own broadcast licenses would disagree, there’s an essential truth and an implicit hope here for the rest of us who are attached to the radio business one way or another.

A 1997 photo of Ira Glass: in 2011, might we suggest that radio can have pictures too?

Radio as we know it is changing in a way that we may not even recognize it a few years from now.  Radio that emanates from the broadcast tower may even fade away—though I personally suspect it will be around longer than some pundits predict.  But, even if those towers do go down, something similar will inevitably rise up from the ashes.

I’m convinced that listener research can play a big role in understanding these changes and identifying new opportunities. But it will take a vastly different approach than most of the radio research that’s done today.

The questions are no longer “what station do you think of first for [insert attribute here]” but more like “given all the other media alternatives available today, what is it about [insert type of radio here – AM/FM radio, Pandora, podcasts etc.] that gives it its value to you.”

How, and to whom, you ask the questions also has to change. You can’t expect to get the insights from the dinner-hour interruption of a random landline telephone call that you can get out of a two-way conversation with an engaged consumer.  And that conversation could take place where the consumer listens to whatever they listen to, in an online/mobile community of which they are a member, or any other mutually agreed upon setting.

The key is staying open to all the possibilities, with the resolve to be on the side of the survivors, wherever that might lead you.

Closing the Engagement Gap

August 7, 2011 7 comments

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.

Researching Why People Tune In vs. Managing Tune-Out

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I was intrigued by one of the findings released last week from the Alan Burns survey on women radio listeners in the U.S. Fewer than 4 in 10 women (39%) who listen to morning radio have a morning radio feature or game they look forward to.  I couldn’t help but wonder what that figure might have looked liked before PPM, and the subsequent gutting of morning show talk and features.

PPM does a fine job of helping stations manage tune-out.  But is anyone tracking those things that get people to tune in to radio in the first place?

Pandora’s Black Box?

July 30, 2011 2 comments

In case you skipped the trades for some July sun this week, Edison Research issued a release Thursday (07/28) that generated some heat. An audience analysis by Edison Research indicates that 18-34 listening to Pandora has reached between .7 and .9 ratings points in the top US radio markets. This would effectively rank Pandora among each market’s leading 18-34 FM stations (see RAIN’s analysis).

This triggered considerable hand-wringing and denial from radio, but also some questions about the data which, at least so far, are unanswered. Mary Beth Garber of Katz Radio (who admittedly is backing its own horse in this race) questioned  the market geography of the study, and whether it provides an “apples-to-apples comparison.”  In the release, Edison says they converted data provided by Pandora into the kind of AQH estimates used by Arbitron.  Beyond that, few details on the methodology or data source are provided, with nothing on either the Edison or the Pandora website.

It’s easy to see why Pandora would commission this analysis. Placing their numbers on traditional radio yardsticks reinforces the legitimacy of the service to media buyers and shareholders—even if it’s open to debate whether Pandora constitutes “radio” or just another way of listening to music. And there’s no reason to suspect that the numbers have been goosed; Pandora’s dominance in the space is well documented.

But a little more transparency in the methodology would be that much more convincing.

Why CPO Households Matter

July 23, 2011 2 comments

What you don’t know about cellphone-only households in your market can hurt you. Especially if you don’t know how many of these households your ratings company is sampling.

We just completed a strategic study in a major Canadian market where 31% of 18-49 year-old radio listeners said they lived in a cellphone-only household (sample size: 1,000, using a market representative online sample).  And, despite BBM claims to the contrary, CPO households varied sharply by format. From 43% among the cume for an alternative-leaning station to 35% for the cume of the market-leading CHR  station and 29% for that of a local Hot AC.  Yes, age plays a role, but notably, only 3 years separated the average age of the cume listeners to the three stations. (Note: the proportion of cellphone-only households in Canada is generally considered lower than it is in most Western countries.)


July 21, 2011 1 comment

Two realities facing radio today:

1. Radio is going through its biggest change since the arrival of television.  New digital alternatives are re-shaping the role that radio plays in listeners’ lives. Meanwhile, PPM is changing the rules of the game.

2. Yet, research for radio remains much the same as it was 30 or 40 years ago. Music testing and perceptual studies continue to focus on the station across the street rather than the new, larger competitive landscape. And sales research still largely consists of re-casting ratings results.

What information does today’s broadcaster need? What tried-and-true techniques are still relevant, and which ones have lost their edge? Where are you seeing genuine insights on how people are listening to radio today? And, oh yeah, how do we do all this on shrinking budgets?

These are the issues that Re-Inventing Radio Research plans to address. It’s not a platform for punditry — there are plenty of those already, most of them very good. And, while radio pundits will no doubt weigh in from time-to-time, it’s not about having all the answers, but working towards doing a better job of asking the right questions.

Re-Inventing Radio Research is intended to be an open conversation. Comments are welcome. And so are contributors. If you would like to be a regular or semi-regular contributor providing your perspective, asking questions of other readers or sharing insights, send me an email at

Categories: State of research Tags: ,
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