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What’s The First Thing You Look At?

June 27, 2013

Is it the eyes? The hair? … Wait, that’s a different blog.

When your monthly PPM numbers roll off the computer – what is the first thing you look at? The easy answer is overall share. If it’s good, everyone’s happy and we tend to wait for the next round. If it’s bad, we look for answers.

Either way, a closer examination of both your numbers AND Arbitron’s performance can help you predict the future course of events for your station. More importantly, it can prevent you from knee-jerk reacting to some bad news.

We have a client in a large market that has been, frankly, killing it for quite a long time. Recently, and suddenly, their numbers plummeted for no apparent reason. Their programming had not changed. Their competition had not changed. And, we checked, the transmitter was working the entire time. As we dove deeply into their numbers as provided in our INSTANT ANSWER report, we found the sudden drop isolated in a single Male cell. Further investigation revealed that the meter count for the market for that cell had suddenly dropped. This put their sudden ratings decline in perspective and prevented them from making wholesale changes to their product. (Subsequently, their numbers have rebounded and the station is fine).

Before I go on, please understand one important fact. There is no direct correlation between lower intab in counties, demo cells, or ethnic groups that are the core listeners to a given station, and the ratings that come from that smaller sample. The fact is, Male 18-24 intab could be low but the AOR station that depends on that cell could have great numbers. How can that be? If the M18-24 diaries or meters that are in the sample happen to be heavy listeners to that AOR station, that sample will be weighted up, giving the station the famous ratings “kiss.” On the other hand, if those diaries or meters happen to be lighter listeners to that AOR station, those will be heavily weighted and the station’s estimates will plummet.

With ratings coming at you every week it is very easy to react to the ebb and flow that is the meter world. Before you adjust your clocks, shut up your jocks or alter your music mix – break down the following …

Key Demos – How well are your key demos represented in the survey? One of the things we show you in INSTANT ANSWER is how well Arbitron has done in reaching each demo cell. You can watch the trends to see if, say Men 35-44, are indexing well as compared to market population and how consistent that performance has been.

Key Counties – Are the meters falling – geographically – where they should? Arbitron does its best to control geography but sometimes there are areas that are under-represented. If one of those areas contains your hot zips, you could be losing audience through no fault of your own.

How big is the pie? – How much time is your audience spending with radio? INSTANT ANSWER tracks market listening for your key demos so you know – every month – whether your target audience is listening more or less to radio overall. Remember, the more time they spend with radio, the more quarter hours you can potentially receive. Plus, it puts in perspective your TSL (sorry, AWTE) trends.

Finally, remember that these are still estimates. You know your radio station and can put the movement of your ratings on a monthly basis in perspective better than anyone. There are many tools out there that can help you go inside the numbers. We suggest you check out our INSTANT ANSWER. You’ll find it not only provides you a unique – and in-depth – look into your latest book, it will also save you that most precious commodity: time. For a free, no-obligation test-drive of INSTANT ANSWER, click here.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant