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Hot Topics

Heavy Radio Listeners

November 16, 2023

You likely read Warren Kurtzman’s recent post on the Tuesday’s With Coleman blog (if not, the link is below). The gist of the article was that any radio station’s marketing to heavy meter keepers is a fool’s errand.

Let’s begin by saying that Warren is correct about one thing: you should build an enduring brand – one that reaches a significant portion of the available audience. The Nielsen panel has an 8-10% turn over range every month (you can see the exact percentage in your eBook). As Warren pointed out, the example station benefitted from a heavy meter and then reversed course when another heavy meter aged out. This type of scenario occurs in just about every PPM market every survey.

Contesting or offers can also be a sugar high. It may get people to sample your station, but what keeps them there once the buzz has worn off?

If ALL you do is play to the meters, you’ll be riding a never-ending roller coaster.

I know I’m being Captain Obvious here, but you should consistently market your station on a regular basis. Procter & Gamble does not assume Tide will maintain its market share quarter after quarter. Markets and tastes change. In radio’s case, cume is always going down. People move, their tastes or situations change, or another media option captures their time and attention. On the other hand, new people move into your market every day. Just because you’ve been around for a long time does not mean you are a household name. Even if you are, that can be as much of a curse as a blessing.

Let’s get back to those heavy meters. As John Snyder from Nielsen pointed out in an Inside Radio article, 10% of all meter keepers generate 47% of all quarter hours. This statistic is shockingly similar to the findings we published in the 1990s based on analysis of hundreds of thousands of diaries. At that time, we found that 8% of a stations’ diary keepers accounted for 40% of their AQH. These people mattered then, and they matter even more now because there is a 90% chance they will still be in the panel the following month!

In Warren’s blog post, he points out how a targeted marketing campaign had minimal effect. I would counter that we have had client stations who have had success using this method. All marketing campaigns are not created equal. Just because you can identify a precise target does not mean they are either persuadable or that you hit them with the right message.  Does that mean you shouldn’t even try? We think not.

You can see who your heavy listeners are in your CPR report. If you spend the extra cash, you can also see the heavy listeners of your competition. Remember that all those quarter hours are unweighted.

Here’s the shameless plug: If you use our Exact Age and Hot Zip reports, we’ll show you the who and where of those quarter hours. You will see them weighted and trended. And you will see every station that is in the book. There’s more! You’ll also see a comparison of your station with your competition, and we’ll highlight your best opportunities to impact your ratings.

Knowledge is power. This granular data will help your decision-making process. Had a bad book? Maybe it’s a product issue, or something with your competitor. Or maybe you lost a heavy listener. It went up? Did a new listener come aboard or did an existing one spend more time with you? We can help you determine why your ratings changed.

As I mentioned earlier, if your only strategy is to market to the heavy meters, then you’ll end up on a treadmill. Create a great product, continue to research it to keep pace with the market and market the hell out of it. That’s a recipe for ongoing success.

Prior to PPM, you would hire Eagle Marketing to conduct a direct mail campaign. You’d target a wide demo in specific counties based on past diary results. You (meaning me) would spend a lot of money fishing in ponds that you hoped were still stocked with listeners (OK, diary keepers).

Today, you have recent data and can target people that are likely still there – all for a fraction of the cost. Seems to me this is a slam dunk of an opportunity to take advantage of.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant