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Don’t Play to the Panel

February 16, 2023

We are ruled by the ratings. Whether you’re getting 13 PPM surveys a year, rolling diary results, or two books a year. The results of these report cards determine our collective fate.

There are plenty of tools that help you gain a deeper understanding of the who, what, and where of your audience. Nielsen provides a CPR (Control Panel Report), for example. Of course, The Ratings Experts here at Research Director, Inc. have several tools that can help you do an even deeper dive…

If you are in a PPM market, you have the luxury (or curse) of the panel. Meter keepers can be empaneled up to two years. This means you have the ability to track them.

Unfortunately, that same opportunity does not exist in the diary world. The listeners in week one of a survey are one-and-done. It can be helpful to track where diaries are coming from, but there is no guarantee that this book’s hot zip code will be there next book. Remember that Nielsen chooses sample by sampling units, not zip codes. (We could tangent off on the conspiracy theory that they often return to the zips that provide the most consistent return, but we’re fresh out of tin foil hats today.)

The data that comes in PPM markets is astounding. You can know who your heaviest listeners are and what zip code they live in. Plus, you can track it survey after survey. Our Programming & Ratings Toolbox can give you a granular look at that data.

This is important information for any programmer. For example, say you have two or three zip codes that generate a huge percentage of your AQH. If you are doing any sort of on-air localizations, you may want to tilt those mentions toward your hot zips. It’s the same for promotional or sales appearances.

This kind of specific knowledge can also help you weather the storm of a bad book. As programmers, our knee-jerk response to a bad book is to fix something. Sometimes, the answer is that you lost a heavy listener. It’s not you; it’s them.

The temptation here is to play to the panel. Focus on the zips and the biggest age cells. While that might be a smart marketing play, we never recommend using that data to influence the sound or positioning of your station. Say your target audience is W35-44, but you are suddenly getting heavy AQH from a 50-54 female (or a 25-34 male). Do you tilt your product in that direction?

We say no. The panel evolves every month. Your product is your brand. There could be a new household just about to go live that is full of P1s to your station.

Know how your audience and ratings are being reported, but stay true to your brand.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant