Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Loyalty: Even More Important Today

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 station's arrival.

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.

Adult 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.

This 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 programs.

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.


Phil Boyce to Tom Taylor NOW said...

We just completed a major research project in which we studied over a thousand talk radio listeners in four top-rated markets. One thing that struck me: There are more listeners to my stations than Arbitron, now Nielsen Audio, gives me credit for. They simply do not find many of my listeners, because my cume is lower than the big dogs, but they are there. We also found an insatiable appetite for news and information. Today's listeners, even more than ever, do not want to be left out when something is happening. We can learn from that..and the News/Talk format will still be very viable.

Dan Bennett, vice president/market manager for Cumulus Media Dallas/Fort Worth said...

We have seen no ratings increase since adding the FM. WBAP at 820 AM still covers 114 counties in the day and has been heard in up to 38 states at night and early morning before the sun comes up. WBAP at 820 is one of the biggest radio signals in America.