For years I have been saying that the average Arbitron diary keeper writes 2.6 radio stations in their book during the survey week and the average BBM ballot contains an average of 2.2 station mentions, which convinced me over time after many diary and ballot reviews that pretty much every diary respondent in both the U.S, and Canada wrote down, more or less, ‘two or three’ radio stations.
I'm betting that a lot of us have programmed our radio stations based on those numbers.
Somewhere deep down I have always known that if two people are in a room, one of them weighs 300 pounds and the other’s weight is 100, there is no one in the room even close to the ‘average’ of the two, but it has taken PPM data emerging over the last few years from Montreal, Philadelphia and Houston to prove how far my (not so) "educated" guess was from the truth, and how different each market can be when you start to see data as granular as PPM permits.
BBM reports that the Montreal electronic data shows - in a city with English speakers, French speakers and bilinguals and radio stations for each of those groups - that people actually, on average, tune into four or five radio stations.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. PPM markets out so far the average meter measures listening to six or seven stations.
In Canada, panelists are permitted to stay in the sample for up to five years, while in America, ARB removes them after two.
ARB VP PPM Sales John Snyder and Michelle Barker of Arbitron’s Research staff crunched some PPM data from Philadelphia in November 2008 (each dot is one meter in the sample) and found that two people actually listened to 25 different radio stations.
During the same month in New York, five panelists cumed between 26 and 30 stations (click on the graphic to enlarge it).
Conclusion: those averages I have been living with for my entire radio career were wrong; which becomes more obvious now that we can see real usage without the bias of top of mind recall.
I’ve always believed it, but now I know for sure: when we see PPM data from the rest of Canadian major markets and more American large markets later this year, we’re going to find that radio listening in Quebec is not the same as it is in Calgary, which is different from Toronto, which is different from Vancouver, which is different from San Francisco, which is different from Atlanta.
Yes, we've all been saying it for years: every market is different.
Now, we are getting the data which proves it.
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2 months ago