Sean Ross (Why The Audience Now Wants Shorter Breaks) initiated not just a great conversation last week but the savvy and experienced folks adding comments since that time simply can't be ignored!
However, I'm not yet convinced.
Back when John Hayes ran Corus and Canada was just starting with PPM, with the help of the brilliant Bob Michaels (I STILL miss him so much - a smart researcher and a wonderful communicator!), all Corus stations were mandated to do six two minute breaks and promote that they go back to the music faster than anyone else.
Finally, after more than a year of disappointing ratings all of the Corus music stations went to two six minute breaks per hour and the ratings improved almost immediately across the board.
In Canada, BBM doesn't use "five minutes equals a quarter hour" as Nielsen Audio does, so it's absolutely a "most minutes" wins game and all of the Canadian country stations we work with are doing exceedingly well right now sticking with the "hour glass" or "bow tie" approach, so I'm welcoming anyone else who wants to take the Edison Researcher's advice and "go first."
My sense is that this is a case of perception vs actual habits.
TV commercials are all run at the same times so that viewers then are forced to choose their favorite shows based on the content not the commercial load and I believe that the same is true with radio when the measurement is PPM.
The major consolidated US group owners have shown me by their actions in PPM that it's possible for one station to play at least one minute more commercial time than a direct competitor and still win by carefully placing their clusters to maximize the time measured by the PPM, which like your cell phone "knows what time it is," so a few seconds can be the same as a minute depending where a tune-in or tune-out happens. Thanks to Nielsen Audio's editing rules, that minute in the right place can be credited as a full quarter hour (or also cost you one if it's improperly placed).
Perception still drives expectations, which does make listeners go to one station "first" over another, but when at that station "time matters" much more than perceptions, I maintain. Great content drives usage in the moment much more than the image that if I am patient I'll hear more of what I want in the long term.
Each "stop" causes a huge loss in the "switcher" audience and the more times per hour that happens the stronger that image of "it's worth waiting for something terrific" must be, my current experience still indicates.
How about you? Ready to go first?
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