In America they’ve changed the way that they measure the number of people tuning into a radio station. Like the UK they’ve been using a diary system, this is where listeners tick a box for each quarter hour of a station that they’re listening to. It’s not exactly scientific, but at least everyone has the same system. Except, it doesn’t really work like that. As the diary is measured on recall, after the fact, it’s maybe not exactly accurate. ‘Heritage’ stations tend to better, as people can remember them; smaller stations, especially ones that people flick onto when they’re not happy with their main station don’t tend to get recalled so their listening isn’t measured so well. Hence the reason that a lot of stations constantly repeat their names – they’re just reminding the diary holders what to tick. There’s also lot of other pros and cons about diaries, but maybe that’s for another post.
Well, in some US markets they’ve changed to something called PPM, basically it’s a little pager device that you carry that listens to what you listen to, it’s therefore thought by some to be much more accurate. Nothing’s ever going to be 100%, but one thing it does do is give you more information, like ratings by the minute, and it delivers it quicker back to the stations.
There’s some interesting new learning that’s coming from PPM, one is that a smaller number of listeners than previously thought provides a disproportionate amount of a station’s hours. Therefore keeping these super-P1s interested is going to become even more important for every station.
What reminded to write about this, was watching Radio 1′s 40-year anniversary show today. I say, watch, because they’re streaming today live in vision, with the audio from the radio station. Throughout the day lots of old DJs are popping in and co-presenting shows so they’ve decided it’s worth going video for the day. It’s also more than a streaming webcam, they’ve got three fixed cameras, but there’s also a vision mixer cutting between the three and occasionally popping up titles for guests etc. It’s surprisingly compelling and not just because i’m a radio geek.
Whether the presenters are dancing along to a song, giving a little wink when they say something or giving evils to their producer it really makes you interested in watching. I’m typing this whilst a record is on, and then stopping to look at them when they’re chatting in a link. Radio is, of course, excellent as wallpaper letting you do something else while it’s on, but sometimes people don’t want to just to hear they want to be a bit more engaged and to properly listen. Anything, like this TV streaming, that can satisfy their consumption desires is a good thing. Especially for the station which will benefit from their listening hours.
It’s also the type of thing that will really help stations in this new PPM world, by catering for the desires of the core audience, the extension of their listening will drive total hours. This, and other web-based things, are also good because they don’t exclude the P2s or other listeners who occasionally stop by for other reasons as it doesn’t clutter the station with unnecessary speech and promos.
If you only had to worry about your core audience, what would you change at your station?