As markets become more compressed due to PPM's small samples and owners of the big combines fragment, niche and offer listeners more diverse choices to try to grow their combo share, loyalty is at a premium.
Passionate listenership patterns are the key to understanding what may happen when one station acquires a competitor which is starting to happen more now with deal-making starting to heat up again as station multiples have come down as lender money dried up due to the economy of the last few years.
Sub-genres that live within a format -- if they create or improve passionate listenership due to narrower targeting of niches within a format-- can actually increase the overall shares for a format.
My views, shaped by experience and observation:
"Jazz/NAC," Urban, and Urban Adult Contemporary are formats that
actually grow when competing amongst themselves. This is because
listening to these formats is so passionate that it eliminates outside
listening. For instance, a heritage Soft Adult Contemporary radio
station may suffer at-work losses if an Urban AC or Jazz comes on but
only from its African-American listeners.
Driving up share is
also true in Rock, in that Rock listeners are loyal to the format, and,
therefore, move between Rock, Classic Rock, Adult Alternative, and
Alternative. The outside formats are the ones that suffer a new Rock
Adult Contemporary listeners are not format loyal, and, therefore, are tougher to convert. If you have a Adult Contemporary station and you put on a Hot Adult Contemporary station, you'll undoubtedly damage yourself as these listeners tend to share their TSL with many other formats. It's all a matter of shelf space. This can also happen as a Hot AC or CHR pulls an AC in a more "hot" direction. Meanwhile, loyalty also diminishes for a soft AC station that fails to recognize the current music trends and remains too "soft" and "warm" for evolving demos.
The Classic Hits Format is not loyal within its life group; nor is Adult Alternative. This can be seen by the various Top 5 sharing patterns of these formats.
Adult Standards, by and large, stays on the AM band and is not format-loyal, but band-loyal.
Urban is a highly loyal listener format. The benefit is that
African-American listeners tend to listen longer to the radio than the average non-ethnic listener.
is also true with Hispanic-targeted formats, but it's becoming less so because "first
language" preference also plays a role as well, especially as Hispanic
formats have broken into smaller pieces at a tremendous rate in many markets due to the
growth of the Hispanic audience.
Business is generally AM band loyal as are
News/Talk and Sports, as - for example - Entercom revealed in its recent Buffalo format finder research. It was this format change that inspired this article.
Most of the things that move up and down the AM band
are loyal to AM, driven by the reality that by and large the difference
between FM and AM listeners is age.
Putting Oldies, Standards/Nostalgia or Classic Country
on an AM you own and News/Talk on another may be positive in that it
limits the crossover between the two, for example.
You may have a
tactical strategy to dominate News/Talk and, therefore, you opt to have
a major News/Talk station that carries all of the big Talk shows and a
secondary, lower-power AM station that presents the competing syndicated
The plus here is that this keeps them off a
competitor, but you are attacking yourself.
It seems to me like
moving a big news/talk station to FM or simulcasting an AM and FM
cannibalizes the audience and in my view most often wastes an FM,
leaving you with a weaker AM.
These are all broad generalizations, of course, and every market situation is unique, creating its own individual parameters.
More on loyalty tomorrow.
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