Saturday, November 08, 2014

Programming By The Numbers

Thanks to Radio Ink Magazine for being the impetus for this article by Mike, Becky and me.  They published it yesterday.  In case you missed it: 

Nielsen’s recent report that for the first time in many years the country format national average shares experienced three down months in a row combined with Mike O'Malley’s almost-simultaneous blog post highlighting the A&O&B national country music database music acceptance trends has to be at least a little concerning for Brand Managers.

My post last week in reaction to just-published NuVooDoo format perceptual data showing that country radio success tends to be more music-driven than other formats, while the highest-rated A&O&B client stations have more personality-driven appeal than our “average” client and at the same time Dan O'Day and Becky Brenner have been enumerating the traits of the very best PDs, all of which no doubt made any sharp programmer sit up and wonder what success factors most deserve their time.

Perhaps (though I doubt it) there may have been a time when a radio programmer only had to worry about how their station sounded and “sounding great” was sufficient to be a winner. 

Even all the way back back to when Gordon McClendon, Todd Storz and radio’s many other creative format and research pioneers of the last six decades attacked existing ways of doing things and won, they tracked specific numbers.  You could hear those stats reflected in how their radio stations sounded.

Today’s complex media, lifestyle and demographic environments create a new problem. 

There are so many things you could possibly track which could help you win or lose, the key to success is prioritizing them, understanding which ones drive you to where you need to be as well as what you need to do in your programming to bring them to life:
  • Ratings:  Share, persons, total cume audience, heavy users percentage, daily, weekly, monthly trends.
  • Stream audience:  uniques, average active sessions, listen live tune-ins, mobile downloads, mobile streaming.
  • Music:  how many of the songs you play most often are “favorites” for a third or more of your target?  How many are rated “positively” by at least 65-70%?  How many are burnt to the point that double digit percentages of your target is tired of hearing them on radio?  How many of the songs you play were “never liked” by similar percentages?  Who do listeners feel plays the most?  The best variety according to their tastes?
  • Formatics:  what proportion of the entire market’s radio listeners understand your unique position and consider it valuable to them?  Does your content drive usage at the exact times the rating methodology requires on a consistent basis compared to the other choices available?
  • Personalities:  how likable are they face-to-face with those on other stations?  How memorable are they?  What are they being remembered for?  How high are their negatives versus their positive images?
  • Outreach:  how many non-commercial appearances do you do compared to your competition?  How well do you take advantage of them in turning listener contact into loyalty, giving the folks who do see you reasons to listen immediately?
  • Reception:  what are people coming in to talk about?  What questions are they asking when they phone us?  How many are positive/negative on specific things we do?
  • Website and blogs:  Visits, page views, uniques, average session length, page views per session, blogs page views, video views.
  • Listener phone lines:  what are they requesting?  Complaining about?  Where are they calling from?
  • Branding:  how does your brand make people feel?  How does that compare to all other stations you compete with?
  • Technical:  can everyone you need to listen receive you with a powerful signal?  How does your station compare to other choices?
  • Social:  Facebook likes, people talking about this, engaged users, viral reach, paid reach.  Twitter followers, following, tweets.  Others:  what percentage of your target uses each of the others?  How viable in similar stats as above are you in the ones they make use of the most?
  • Database:  Email database compared to your competition?  Loyalty club members?  Response rates?  New %?  % in metro?  Contests vs non-contest players?  Active in the past 90 days?  Text club members, # of texts, response rates.
  • On air contesting:  how important is it to your usage?  Do you dominate the image or are you beaten by someone else?
  • Info elements:  weather, news, community involvement and service.  How important is each to your success and how strong is your ownership of the images that matter most.
  • Events:  what percentage of your target knows what you do?  Are they motivated to participate?  What other events do they attend and would like you do be involved with?  Where are the best locales for our external marketing?  What % of our time is being spent in those places?
Ask any radio researcher.  If you have the money and listeners are willing to take the time, they can design a perceptual questionnaire that tabs all of these metrics for you and many more.

The challenge for Audio Program Director/Brand Managers today is that every one of the time-proven data points still matters a lot, but the nature of today’s changing listening patterns means that many more new numbers you must track are also crucial to understand and compare in every heritage and new media competitive environment.

Prioritizing and measuring them all while acting on what they tell you about all station activities and endeavors in fun, creative, authentic ways so that it all feels and seems “easy” is what builds a lasting winner.

That is how you get to the number which has always mattered the most:  #1.

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