Remember, Ratings Success is About Occasions

Posted on July 5, 2011


(This post originally ran in January following the Arbitron Client Conference that had taken place in December. It details a very important concept about how to get great ratings so I felt it was worth re-visiting. I will return with new posts on Monday July 11.)

I don’t want to bruise your ego but there’s an important bit of reality I want you to face up to because until you admit you have a problem you’ll never get better.

Here goes:

Your show is NOT more important to your listeners than getting to work on time, a meeting with their boss, a call from  their mother or happy hour with the gang. It’s not that they don’t love you, it’s just a matter of priorities. No matter what daypart you are in or how high your ratings are, it’s a very, very, very small part of your audience that listens to your entire show. Sorry. I didn’t want to be the one to break that to you.

While we’ve always suspected this to be the case data from the PPM has proved it. The ability to measure minute by minute listening has shown just how often people start and stop listening to the radio.  It happens a lot.

It’s not your fault. It’s not bad content or talking too much — though those can cause problems — it’s simply their lives which are out of your control. 

What you can exert some influence on is what happens after the meeting, the phone call from mom or happy hour. That’s the key to success; getting them to come back to you.

At the recent Arbitron Client Conference several presentations covered the idea of “occasions” of listening being equally, if not more, important than how long people listen at a stretch. For example, let’s look at 18-34 year-old listening habits in the 33 PPM rated markets:

On average stations get 3.3 daily occasions (tune-ins) per day from their listeners each of which averages 9 minutes in duration.

In comparison, the top three stations in those same markets also average 9 minutes of listening per occasion. What sets them apart is that they average 4.5 occasions (tune-ins) each day.

It’s that extra 1.2 occasions each day that propels stations up the ratings ranker. On average people spend the same amount of time when they tune-in, they just tune to successful stations more often.

For you, this means less emphasis on getting people to stick around an extra five minutes, something you have little control over, and more emphasis on getting people to tune in later in the show or tomorrow.

That means scheduling and pre-promoting great content. Book guests ahead of time and let people know when they will be on the air. Strive for benchmark features that people will remember to tune in for.

I know that’s easier said then done but the effort will be worth it when your ratings climb. And of course if you need some help just let me know.