Under the new thinking, shorter listening stretches became almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. The brief moment in which a top 40’s power rotation could be 45 minutes has mostly passed. But there’s still an emphasis on instant gratification—e.g., all-news stations with traffic every four minutes, even if it means sending people on their way sooner. But how many more occasions can you get from listeners if the three places where they might have consumed radio are down to one, in some cases? “At home” is diminished by the competition from morning TV and, increasingly, by the lack of a radio at home. “At work,” the usage that lends itself to long listening stretches, is threatened by other choices that offer even more continuous music and fewer interruptions.
Don't think that just because you read that paragraph it's really now OK to read on.
I want you to click on that link above and read his entire piece, so that you are fully aware that I agree with him as far as he goes but also believe he's totally missing something more obvious and even more important.
To make my point, I want to share this graphic being used in presentations all over Canada on PPM listening lengths by Catherine KellyVice-President/Western Region for BBM.
It's a view of life at breakfast time at Catherine's house. She undocks her meter, turns on her radio and starts to get the family ready to face their days.
One of her kids is slow to get out of bed, so she has to go up to his room at least twice before he comes down ready to go. The dog needs a walk. She's busy and moving all over the house.
In about 45 minutes her PPM listening is broken into four sessions totalling 39 minutes.
The radio stations she's using could stop for commercials whenever they want. They can tease as enticingly as they desire. They could cut their commercial loads. They could hyper-spin her favorite songs, and none of those things will impact the reasons she's leaving the radio and coming back to it.
It's about what she's doing, not about what we are doing.
Here's the deal on the “9-10 Minute” myth of the "average" occasion length, as Kelly explains:
• Much has been made about the 10 minute attention span of radio listeners – apparently brought about by insights from PPM.
• When looking at number of listening events and average session length, it is consistent to see a session length of between 9 and 11 minutes.
• Keep in mind, these numbers are averages – they include people who listen for 30 minutes and people who listen for 3 minutes.
In fact, here's the math: if you break session length into quantiles of usage, the session for the average "heavy user" is 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, if you calculate the "mode," the most frequently-occurring number in that nine-ten minute average is actually 2:30. Two and a half minutes.
That's why moving the average is so difficult, not because we play too many bad songs or too many commercials.
Sure, it makes your PPM ratings better if you play the best songs and minimize interruptions for the switching audience, which absolutely changes stations while they are in the car each time anything they don't like comes on, but MScore, AirplayIntel and other PPM-based music research is based on tracking only the "switching" audience, those folks who switch from one station to another.
That's only half of the total audience.
The other half isn't tracked by that approach because their listening goes from "you" to "off" and from "off" to "you."
Those are your most loyal listeners and yet the PPM-based music research doesn't measure their usage.
Rather than focusing so much on eliminating reasons why people change stations, it's just as important to figure out what things you do bring those people back and do those things more often.