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Get to Know Your Panel

July 1, 2021

The beauty of the PPM ratings system is that it can accurately – and quickly – record listener behavior. We see that year after year during the Christmas holiday. We see it in markets where a major sports franchise goes to the World Series or the Super Bowl. We saw it over the last year as listeners stopped commuting.

There is also a level of consistency in these numbers. A person can be in the panel for up to two years. Sometimes, even longer.

Of course, sample size remains an issue. However, this is not something you or this blog can solve today. What you (and we) can do is get to know the panel.

By this I am not implying that you can personally identify individual panelists. That is impossible and would subject any survey to toxic levels of contamination. What you can do is look at trends.

One survey is a small sample size. Unless there is something your station or competition did – like marketing or a major personality change – or something that affected the market (looking at you COVID-19) – reacting with a knee jerk to one book may be a bit severe. For example, your biggest panelist could have gone on vacation. That could mean you lost 25% of their weekday listening and – potentially – 50% of their weekend AQH. That is not something you can fix.

Looking at the trend line for your station – and format group – can tell you a lot more about what is going on in the market. Is the panel favorable to your particular format group? Is it leaning toward a different format?

Again, barring local market conditions, this can be a signal that the panel is leaning in one direction or another.

We have seen – in the real world – instances where a particular format, let’s call it Country, has ebbed and flowed over the course of 14 surveys. The individual stations have not gained or lost to each other. They lost listening to the market. In our mythical example, let’s say this is in a southern market with a high percentage Hispanic population. And, continuing the fantasy, let’s say listening to all Hispanic formats is dramatically up while Country has cratered. Would your programming sense tell you this is a product problem or a panel problem?

Why is this knowledge so important? Because Program Directors like to fix things. A down survey implies something is broken. That is not always the case. But you do have to look for that information.

How, you say? You can set up tons of reports in the PPM Analysis Tool or Tapscan. These are time consuming but of value. You can spend the extra dollars and purchase CPR reports on all your competitors. Useful even if the data is unweighted. Either way you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and get very personal with the data.

Or…here comes the shameless plug…you can bring in The Ratings Experts from Research Director, Inc.
We have three easy-to-read reports that will instantly provide most of the “whys” to the “what happened?”

Format Tracker looks at the mini-universes that exist in every market. It can tell you where the audience is going – down to a very granular level.

The Exact Age and Hot Zip reports will show you what ages, ethnicities, and genders are listening to your station (and the competition) and where they are.

Whichever path you choose, we strongly encourage you to break down your numbers every single survey. You need to go beyond Adults 25-54 and dayparts. Otherwise, any decisions you make are based on incomplete information. Getting to know your panel and paying attention to overriding trends is the best way to know what impact the market is having on your station.

Reach out to us here to learn more.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant