Inside Radio report this morning that country is radio's #4 billing format really got my mind churning, given that it has been four years since I tracked format conversion ratios in this space and at that time the format ranked #7 in a slightly different metric, converting ratings to revenue.
There was a time when news talk, with its 18 minutes per hour and country with an average of perhaps 12 commercial minutes per hour where the top two "power ratio" formats. Back then, felt that was because country was able to sell its highly-engaged audience more effectively than other formats.
Some of the loss of those old conversion ratios came as a result of clusters getting bigger and groups focusing more on "cluster shares" rather than just one station. That, combined with country's growing mass audience over the last decade, has made our qualitative more like "the average" mainstream mass appeal radio station.
Nielsen's Radio Today 2013 tracks 1,857 country stations with a total cume audience of 66,025,700 and an AQH of 3,479,000!
Fewer sales reps are "country" (or any other format) specialists and the process of buying has become increasingly commoditized and less personal.
This still works in the very smallest markets where we have many clients who still bill double their local audience share by doing personality endorsements, remote broadcasts and basically earning a premium by their proven ability to move product. Well-trained sales people in these places like these can make surprising amounts of money and thus stay in those communities for a very long time, building more and more relationships of trust.
For example, the Country share in 2012 (from Radio Today 2013)
PPM markets = 7.4
Diary markets = 16.3
Unrated markets (county by county) = 26.2
dollars outside the major markets that country bills spend just the
same as the ones we fight for in the more compressed PPM metros.
Country is the one format at the top of the 2013 revenue ranker that hasn't fragmented into narrower pieces: AC today has become at least three or four different formats, CHR has both pop and rhythmic, Rock has also splintered into a least four smaller pieces, Oldies has evolved to a completely different demo target, just to name a few.
The promise of consolidation was more format diversity and that does seem to have happened, but as BIA has tracked, that has not really grown revenues.
Given the explosion of new media, I'd say that holding our own is quite an achievement since the media world of 2000 bears little resemblance to it in 2013.
Tell me what occurred to you after seeing the new numbers.
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3 years ago