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Two Ways to Win the Ratings Game

March 23, 2023

As The Ratings Experts, we’re well-versed in the language of Nielsen. We not only know the numbers, we also know where to mine for the nuggets that can reveal why your station is healthy (or not).

However, if you work your way through the fog of war, you’ll find that your ratings are dependent on one metric – Average Quarter Hour (AQH). Everything is dependent on this number …

As a refresher, AQH is made up of two – and only two – components.

  1. Cume – The total number of listeners that listen in a given daypart. By definition, a listener qualifies as a cumer if they listen to your station for five minutes in a given quarter hour. That’s consecutive minutes in the diary world and cumulative in PPM.
  2. Time Spent Listening (TSL) – To be precise, this is called Average Weekly Time Exposed (AWTE) in the PPM multiverse. We’re old school, so we’ll stick with TSL. This is how long they listen (on average).

Getting people to sample your product – even for a mere five minutes – is hard work. Especially in today’s environment where marketing dollars are scarce. There are clever ways to work around this with events and appearances, but awareness depends on repetition. A van hit is nice but how much does that move the needle?

On the other hand, TSL can be manipulated. As a reminder, TSL is composed of two elements:

  1. Occasions – How many times a listener tunes in to your station for a qualified quarter hour.
  2. Durations – How long the listen is during each occasion.

Durations are difficult to influence. People tune out for a variety of reasons. Getting them to “listen longer” is a nice idea, but after a 45-minute commute home from work, are they really going to sit in their car waiting for whatever you just teased? Probably not.

However, getting them to tune in tomorrow or on their way to work or on the weekend is very doable. Let’s say your average listener gives you four occasions a week. How powerful would it be if you could just get them to tune in one more time? Just one.

This is where the alchemy and art of programming a radio station comes into play. A savvy programmer will use the available tools to look at recycling trends, number of occasions (especially for P1s), and even find out where listeners go when they leave your station (often they are turning the radio off).

Converting existing listeners to heavy listeners is a much easier lift than convincing non-listeners to try your product.

Of course (shameless plug alert), besides the tools provided by Nielsen, we have the Programming & Ratings Toolbox just brimming with proprietary reports that can give you a clearer picture of the “what,” “who,” and “where” of your audience. You can find out more by clicking here.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant