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Is Morning Drive Back?

January 19, 2023

Radio has traditionally been built around Morning Drive. That is where all the resources – and “entertainment” – has been focused for decades, at least when it comes to stations that focus on music. This industry muscle memory has been hard to shake.

When PPM technology was introduced, it forced a paradigm shift on radio. All of a sudden, the data showed that there was more available listening in afternoons than in mornings. That radio did not truly react or adapt to that fact is the subject for a different kind of blog.

Perhaps part of the problem is that most programmers may not track market listening on an hour-by-hour basis. This is understandable because Nielsen does not make this process easy. For example, you can go into Tapscan and select the “Hour-by-Hour” report but that will not provide market totals. You could also go into the Trender report and set up special day parts like “Mon-Fri 6A-7A” and run a separate report for each hour, then compile them into a spread sheet. (Pro tip: If you do decide to do that, make sure you check the “Market total” box – and save the custom dayparts in your favorites.)

The Ratings Experts track this data in our clients’ markets so they can see this information – on a trending basis – in every survey. Yes, that was a shameless plug, but it leads to further discussion.

When the pandemic shutdown hit in March of 2020, Morning Drive radio all but disappeared. This was the result of a large percentage of the population shifting to remote work (and schooling). As life has returned to whatever normal is, we have seen the gradual return of listening in Morning Drive. Are the PUMM (Persons Using Measured Media) levels where they were prior to the lockdown? Absolutely not. Will they ever return to that level? We can only hope.

As a general rule, there is more available listening Monday-Friday 3P-5P than there is Monday-Friday 7A-9A. However, we have recently seen a surge in Morning Drive listening. In many of the markets we regularly monitor, that 7A-9A block is larger than the 3P-5P segment. Is this the beginning of a trend? We won’t know for several surveys as the Holiday book usually sees the lowest PUMM levels of the year. And, of course, listening patterns are mauled by the presence of Santa and his minions.

As 2023 unfolds, we will be watching to see if Morning Drive has truly returned. In the meantime, we suggest you dig into your market’s PUMMs to see if you are experiencing this change. Knowing where the highest (and lowest) PUMM levels are for your market – and format group – will help you make more informed tactical decisions: Where to put the commercial free (and full) hours, where to schedule features and promotions, etc.

If you would like assistance in finding this data, The Ratings Experts from Research Director, Inc. always stand ready to serve. Reach out to us here.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant