Sunday, August 09, 2009

Radio Ratings and other Lines of B.S.

Should I be careful or be honest with what I am about to say?

I'll be honest and let the chips fall.

Friday morning, the Arbitron company released the results for the Spring 2009 radio listener survey they conducted for Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is where I live.

For nearly seven years I have worked with a group of radio stations known as Summit City Radio, which includes WILD 96.3, ROCK 104 and The River.

Three years ago we brought back ROCK 104 after the previous managers killed it off with a format change. ROCK 104 began in the 1970's as an Album Oriented Rock FM Radio station. If you've ever seen the movie FM, you'll get an idea of what ROCK 104 was in it's early days.

A couple of other rock formatted stations came to town, one known as the Bear plays contemporary Rock music, and then about 10 years ago, the Fort began as a Classic Rock station.

The Fort carries the widely popular syndicated Bob & Tom Morning show which has become their strongest program, even though it is a comedy/talk show and the only music they play are parody songs.

ROCK 104 and the Fort are direct competitors as Classic Rock Stations, even though ROCK 104 is not strictly a Classic Rock station either, as they will play new music by Classic Rock Artists too.

For the past 3 years the behind the scenes battle between these two stations have been brewing and on Friday morning, when we received the rating results, cheers went off as ROCK 104 beat the Fort for the first time since we brought ROCK 104 back. As I took a glance at the numbers, I saw a huge drop in the ratings for Bob & Tom which contributed to this transformation along with continued growth for ROCK 104.

Our other two stations posted signifcant gains during this rating period too.

However, the problem with ratings is they are misused. The original purpose was for the radio station programmers to determine if people were listening to their radio stations. When I was on the programming side, I would pour over the data and see if we were accomplishing what we wanted as far as reaching the target audiences that we wanted to reach.

Somewhere in time, the ratings became a tool for determining the price of advertising. And this is where the B.S. really started to get stinky.

Despite all of their efforts at accuracy, the ratings are not an accurate determination of the success of an advertising campaign on a radio station. However I work with a lot of advertising agencies and they will use the rating information as a primary criteria of which radio stations they place their cleints ads on and what price they will be willing to pay. So I am greatful for a "good book" as it means we will get more money and more advertisers based on these rating increases.

But you as a business owner, really need to dig deeper and work with the people who have a plan that works to accomplish the goals you have for your business. Contact me at if you want more information.

In the meantime, take a look at this from Seth Godin:

The danger of vague claims

The sign the broker posted in front of the house listed her name and then said, "#1 in Westchester, Top 10 Nationwide."

What does that mean, exactly? That this real estate broker is the most successful broker in the whole county and one of the top ten in the country? I don't think so. Not if she's selling this house. She'd have to sell a thousand houses like this to catch up with someone in a fancier neighborhood who only sells ten.

I think it means that the firm she works for is really big. So what? Is that a qualification for anything? Is the 11th biggest real estate firm way less good than the ninth?

Here's the danger: when the very first interaction we have is one where you are sort of not telling the relevant truth, where do we go from here?

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