Monday, February 01, 2010

Driving, Looking Only In The Rear View Mirror

There have been many great articles written in the last several years since Arbitron and BBM started rolling out the Portable People Meter in the U.S. and Canada designed to help programmers and personalities know what to do when their station is monitored by PPM.

This is not going to be one of them.

An extensive high tech cottage industry has emerged providing sophisticated tools for broadcasters to study the behaviors of radio listeners as they listen to radio. BBM has InfoSys, ARB has PDA web, RCS has Media Monitors, Audience Reaction and MScore, ROI has PPM expertise, Cornerstone Research has XTrends, Research Director has Instant Answer, to name just a few.

I must confess: I love and am addicted to them all.

However, having spent hours pouring over reports which tabulate and even can play actual air checks as you graph panelist usage, I also have to say that it all comes down to this:

Bill Drake was right; Rick Sklar was correct; Chuck Blore got it; Mike Joseph understood, to name just s few of radio's very best and most successful programmers.

More than that, they created stations that executed 24/7 like the legends they have become. I bet they’d all do just fine in PPM measurement.

A great programmer intuitively recognizes entertaining, compelling, interesting, engaging, don’t-miss-a-minute radio when she/he hears it.

The trick is not analyzing it, but teaching, training, motivating talent to do it so consistently that listeners notice and a station becomes famous for it, which drives regular usage – several times a day, more days per week than its competition.

If you doubt it, then you absolutely need to get the analytical tools and spend the many hours it will take you to compare what average listeners are doing while we do what we do.

After all, there are only four possible actions as you listen to the radio:

1) turn a station on,
2) turn a station off,
3) change from a station to another one or
4) change from a different station to yours.

All the technology which PPM has enabled, at this point, still makes you wait from eight days to as much as five weeks to compare what radio did to what listeners did.

Perhaps the reason for that lag time is because the suppliers and ratings companies are fearful that we can’t handle to watch it in real time as yet, but you know that day is coming.

There’s no need to wait for that event. I can tell you what you’ll find out:

• Radio listeners love interesting personalities who never bore them, relate to their lives, make them feel connected and never waste their time, who talk to one person about common concerns, not about themselves.
• They want to feel up to date.
• Almost half of them change stations or turn the radio off when irritating commercials which insult their intelligence come on.
• They listen longer and more often to radio stations which they can count on to play fewer commercials than more cluttered ones.
• They like their favorite songs. The change stations when ones they dislike come on.
• They hit their presets when it sounds like a station is taking a break of any kind from what they enjoy for something (anything) else.
• The more entertainment value they receive for time spent the more regularly they come back to a personality or station.

Luckily for all of us, we already have two very useful pieces of equipment which can help improve a station’s performance in PPM, diaries, phone surveys or whatever methods media buyers use to evaluate as they spend their dollars.

Ears.

Use them.

Listen objectively to your station with the same critical thinking skills that radio’s most skillful programming executives have always employed.

You don’t need a device to measure whether your brand is so strong that lots of people have high expectations when they turn to your place on the dial and your implementation is so consistent that you never fail to exceed them.

You do need a person with judgment, communication, the ability to prioritize and motivational skills as well as the strength to fight for the needs of the listener.

Someone who is able to see what’s ahead, on both sides of you as well as what happened last week or last month.

Someone who doesn’t just call him/her self a Program Director, but is one.

2 comments:

SandysCountry said...

Jaye, you have said it all. The only thing I can add is, "Amen."

dave said...

Bravos, Jaye. Well said. The play's the thing, it was ever thus.