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Arbitron Panelist,”F— this!”

“The first couple days I’m wearing this thing and I’m turning into radio just trying to get these points and then finally I said, ‘Well, f— this.’” – Former PPM panelist

PPM

How many times have you wanted to say ‘f— it.’ to Arbitron? Those were the words of a caller I will call “Joe” to the Tom Leykis Show on New Normal Network.

Listen to the comments in context here.

This is a taboo topic of conversation for terrestrial radio and it would disqualify a radio station’s ratings faster than you can push “scan” when the Kars-for-Kids commercial starts up. However, it was the Top Story on Radio Stuff’s podcast. (editor’s note: Arbitron emailed their responses to our questions, so we had a British bloke voice the answers on the podcast. It’s worth a listen for that alone.)

DISCLAIMER: As a programmer, I have praised Arbitron for measuring my genius programming with precision when ratings are high and cursed them when they dropped. (Certainly there must be a sampling error, no?)

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Joe v. Arbitronado

So, I sent the audio from “Joe” to Arbitron’s Director of Programming Services Jon Miller and asked him what he thought. He says it sounds like things are working the way they should.

 “Arbitron has safeguards in place to help ensure the integrity of our PPM ratings. In this case, the panelist’s comments are a demonstration of some of those safeguards, such as calling households if their compliance in carrying the meter falls off.”

Caller Joe complained to Leykis:

man-141052_640 “I started getting all these phone calls. I’m thinking you know who the hell is this calling me? We’ll it’s Arbitron. So apparently this meter has something that can tell when you’re moving and when you’re sitting still. And so when I’m not moving, they’re calling me – pretty much harassing me about why am I not wearing the meter and they can’t get accurate ratings and I need to be wearing my meter. Well, after about two weeks of this, they called me and said, “You’re not wearing the meter!” and I finally said, ‘alright, fuck this. Send me a box and I’m sending all this shit back.’”

Miller wouldn’t go so far as to characterize the company’s behavior as harassment, but the calls are part of the quality control.

“Arbitron monitors compliance with its instructions, contacts households who aren’t complying and works with them to improve their carry habits whether through coaching or other incentives.”

The 2010 Broadcast Architecture study on PPM panelists talked to one woman who clipped her meter to a ceiling fan, Joe plopped it down in front of a radio, and I’ve heard that others have attached them to pets. So, Jon Miller, how do you know when a panelist is cheating.

“The PPM has a motion detector built into it allowing us to capture both the motion records and media exposure from that day. There are thresholds for how many hours of motion a day we require for our panelists to be counted in the days ratings, and the more they wear the meter the more incentives they receive.”

And then there’s sample size. It wasn’t brought up by the caller, but it is commonly heard uttered in anger and echoing through the hallways outside PDs offices.

“PPM’s sample sizes are designed to deliver the same level of statistical reliability as the Diary survey, but with less total sample. We accomplish that by surveying listeners for a much longer period of time (28 days in just one PPM survey month) compared to the one-week diary timeline. This level of detail, thousands and thousands of days of measurement across a single month, allows us to see so many granular things with PPM data that we just can’t with the Diary.”

Parting Shots

“If Arbitron is the standard in terms of traditional AM and FM radio then it’s a flawed standard.” -Joe the caller

Joe’s point would be more valid if he wasn’t just complaining that he wanted to earn the money without doing the work.

Jon offers some real valuable insights here for everyone in radio.jonmiller

“One of the most fascinating things I’ve seen over the 5+ years that PPM has been in use is how much and how fast listening habits are evolving and changing. Nothing stays static in PPM, and we’re finding that radio listening is dynamic. This continually motivates broadcasters to continue offering compelling content on stations with clear and strong brand images, so that they can cut through with listeners in an ever more crowded media world.”       – Jon Miller, Arbitron VP of Programming Services

Clear. Strong. Brands. Cut Through.

And I would add this:

“PPM isn’t perfect, but it’s all we’ve got.” – Larry Gifford 

Upon Further Review

We can’t force our ideal listeners to participate – it’s a roll-of-the-dice and sometimes you roll snake eyes.

Arbitron is weeding out at least some of the cheaters. Good.

We can’t know “true” listening behavior without NSA quality spy equipment and the violation of our listener’s constitutional rights.

Stations and panelists are both trying to game the system. Makes me wonder who Arbitron is gaming.

The sample size is what it is, unless stations want to spend even more ridiculous amounts of money to be told your station is still – awesome, sucky, irrelevant, vital – depending on the time of the month.

The success or failure of your station is in the hands of Caller Joe. Good luck.

Eight Things Pandora Will Do Now That It Bought A Radio Station

Pandora is buying a real radio station (article here); 102.7 The Hits in South Dakota. They have a theory that this puts them in the same category as iHeartRadio as it relates to affordable music rights fees. It may work. But, it got me thinking, what if Pandora started to act like a radio station?

Eight Things Pandora Will Do Now That It Bought The Radio Station 102.7 The Hits

8. Complain about Arbitron. Not once has Pandora.com shown up in the PPM data, the sampling must be off.

7. Update the logo. Keep it familiar, but leverage the Pandora name, but make it more “radio-y.” (notice no mention of the website)

pandora logo

6. Buy more banner roll. One sad logo isn’t going to cut it anymore.

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5. New Slogan:

OLD “Today’s Best Hits Without The Rap” (seriously, that’s the slogan. I didn’t realize my Mom was writing radio slogans. She’s always going on about “the rap” music.)

NEW: “If you like Nickelback….we are playing songs that are similar to them”

4. New 10×10 tent for the grocery store remotes. No radio station is complete without one.

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3. Understand Added Value. Give clients spots on Pandora.com at no charge in exchange for paying for terrestrial radio buys. This works, trust us Pandora, we know radio.

2.  Update the Bieber cutout. He’s much cooler these days.

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1. Use streaming audio for promotion! Make sure the web stream pushes terrestrial listening, otherwise it doesn’t count!

Okay, I’m cheeky and sarcastic. I know. But, it does make you stop think about why radio does some of the things it does. Evolution involves change and change is uncomfortable. To adapt and survive, radio is going to have to get pretty uncomfortable, pretty quickly.

Hey, YOU are really talented!

Encouraging-WordsIt’s free. It’s fast. It’s effective in motivating your team and getting the results you want. But hardly anyone in radio is doing it.

When was the last time you paid someone a genuine, specific compliment about something they did?

It’s a rare treat in radio to be certain. I know for me, I usually hear about the good things and positive impact I make during my final week on the job. It’s flattering for sure and a little depressing that it takes my resignation to trigger genuine compliments – and often times I’m so surprised I blush.

“Wow, I did that? Cool.”

The other day, I was talking to someone who wasn’t sure if a trusted and dear friend enjoyed her work, because she’d never said so. She didn’t NEED the validation, but she really WANTED it. She wants people to enjoy her work and hoped they ‘get it’ and appreciate it.

So it got me thinking. Why don’t we offer compliments to each other more often?3221c47caa4bd4a26d1d6548ab8b2b0f

I imagine we believe we’re too busy to notice good things. We are so focused on improving the product by highlighting what’s wrong that we don’t have the time to showcase and reinforce what’s right. Accentuating the negative is an ongoing issue in our industry that I blame Arbitron for (why not?). Because of fluctuating ratings, we believe something is always broken, wrong, needs fixing or changed. We (radio programmers, general managers, consultants, etc.) focus a lot of time and effort on insanely attempting to master almighty Arbitron and less on cultivating the great work from each other through our compliments.

There are other reasons we skip the niceties too. Some of us are too insecure of our own talents, too afraid to shine a light away from ourselves, or too intimidated by others to speak up. What else? You know that feeling when you want to say something, but you’re not sure what to say and you don’t want to sound stupid? That feeling often keeps us from saying anything at all. There are also factions of folks in radio who don’t believe it’s their job to compliment others (but no doubt they’ll talk negative behind your back). And then there are those who assume people hear how good they are all the time from other people, so why bother.

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another.

Here’s a secret. No one hears how good they are or receives compliments on the exceptional things they do – often enough. Whether you are talent, management, sales, production, news, board op, promotions, engineering or the front desk assistant, you want compliments and people want to receive compliments from you.

And it’s scientifically proven to make people better at their job. A research study published in November by a team of Japanese scientists in the Public Library of Science’s scientific journal PLOS ONE found proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward (a compliment). The team previously discovered that the area of the brain known as the striatum is activated equally when a person is rewarded via a compliment or cash.

maslow

Compliments inspire, empower and make people feel awesome. People want and need to feel appreciated for what they do – even the guys with big egos and the women with rock-n-roll attitudes. People need to feel respected, feel valued and have good self-esteem. This is the fourth level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow even said when people do not have self-respect they feel incompetent and weak. Raise your hand if you want employees and co-workers who feel incompetent and weak!

Plus, there’s the side benefit of positive reinforcement. Your one minute of telling someone how much you “loved” this or how “great” that was has the power to motivate that person to repeat that behavior and continue to be great over and over again.

And just as powerful is our silence. Not providing appreciation and recognition for great work is de-motivating and demoralizing. It’s a hallway buzz kill that makes everyone feel “less than.” Nothing like a radio station full of passionless drones who feel unappreciated, undervalued and overworked. But that would never happen in radio, right?

So how do you do it? David Stewart, an eHow.com contributor, has an easy step-by-step process on complimenting someone at work.

1. Find something specific and genuine that you like about your colleague.
2. Choose the right words that help express your appreciation.
3. Begin a compliment with “you.”
4. Provide a specific example of what you noticed, observed.
5. Notice and recognize small things that matter. Don’t wait for major events to show appreciation.

For example; “You have a real knack for self-improvement and positivity. I noticed you reading the Larry Gifford Media blog today and it just reminded me how much I admire the amount of time and effort you take to better yourself. Thanks for setting a good example for everyone else.”

(Paying a compliment is one of 13 ways you can be a better co-worker according to Reader’s Digest.)

Now, go forth and compliment. Let others know you appreciate them. No strings attached. No expectations. Just be kind, be genuine and be generous with your praise. It’s good for team morale, personal self-esteem and productivity. Oh, and did I mention it’s free (and not just to the 12th caller).

Don’t Just Build An Audience, Activate Your Community

Social media should be a vital component to your strategy to engage, retain and grow your fan base. One study just released (by Arbitron) shows most radio stations and hosts are still broadcasting (simply pushing information) on social media instead of engaging.

Engagement comes in many forms and it’s crucial if you are going to engage in social media that you create a 24/7 experience.  This means replying to tweets/comments online and on air, retweeting posts, following listeners, asking questions, providing information, expressing opinions and observations, posting pictures, videos, and owning big events or moments.

 If done correctly, not only will the listeners feel like they’re a part of your show and/or your station (and not just witness to it), but you’ll have a staff of tens-of-thousands helping you prep and advance your show or giving you leads for stories.

And the key is doing this without taking our focus off of creating great content for radio. For talk shows, hosts and producers will need work together and assign specific duties to make sure you serve your fans the best you can.  Read through jobs-to-be-done below and work together to identify what each member of the show unit can do to contribute to the effort.

These are social media insights from talent who are having success with it; 97.3 KIRO FM’s morning news anchor Linda Thomas (@thenewschick), 710 ESPN Seattle producer Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynESPN), Syndicated host Dave Ramsey (@RamseyShow and @DaveRamsey), CBS Dallas Sports radio morning guy Shan Shariff (@newschoolSS), and regionally syndicated hosts Armstrong & Getty (@AandGshow) among others..

Here are some of the Jobs-to-be-done for successful social media

Make the show a 24/7 experience; don’t just tweet or Facebook while on the air. The most successful engagers are tweeting opinions, insights, observations and pictures during the time they are off the air. This is how you can get fans to think about your show when you aren’t on the air. And create a community of fans who can turn to you for reaction at any given moment and not have to wait for your show to start.

Showcase your personality. Sending links to stories is not enough. It’s your personality and how you observe the world that resonates with YOUR fans. Engage. Have a conversation.

Be substantive. Don’t just make this a promo machine, telling people to listen to the radio at a certain time for some reason. If you promote something to get radio listeners, follow-up with a link to the discussion for those who missed it. The rule of thumb is four pieces of content for one piece of promotion.

Think of it as content. Use twitter and Facebook to find REMARKABLE comments on things you are talking about on air. Reading a BAD tweet is just as bad as a BAD phone call. 

Reply to follower’s messages. Not all messages, but messages that add to the conversation.

Retweet. GREAT messages that ADD to the conversation should be retweeted, so the community can see how others are engaging with you.

FOLLOW all followers. This is how you grow your community.

Own big moments; provide an ongoing commentary of big events/moments. Assume your followers are witnessing what you’re seeing, so it doesn’t become straight play-by-play. Notice what YOU notice.

Give Access. Tweet or Facebook behind the scenes access; observations, pictures, videos.

Share Audio. Tweet and/or post podcasts and short sound clips each day that showcase your show, your personality or the station.

If you have successful best practices you’d like to share please post a comment or send me a note.

How Do I Get Better Ratings? Focus.

Focus. That’s how you get things done — including ratings. In this world of “I want what I want when I want it wherever I am” – it’s important you think about what you do and why you do it.

Do you know what your show is about? Not only specifically today’s show, but the show in general. What’s it about? What’s the listener benefit? How do listener’s use your show? Are you meeting their expectation every time you crack the mic?

Do you know who you are? What’s your personality? Go ahead, describe you in a  sentence. Do you want to hang out with you? Are you unique, authentic, original? Do you fill a hole on the station, in the market? What should people expect when they tune into you? Do you fulfill that expectation?

Do you know what you’re talking about? Do you know why you’re talking about it? Do you know why you like this story? What attracted you to it? What are you going to do with it? What’s your point? What’s the payoff? What’s the listener benefit?

It’s not only about who’s talking and what you talk about, but how you talk about it and how it exceeds the listener expectation. Radio is fun, but it’s not only fun – it’s a business. One way to better ratings is to  focus your show, focus your topics, and focus your personality.

Two “Must Haves” To Be #1

Arbitron released a study recently on the key indicators of highly rated PPM stations. They surveyed stations in 48 markets and most every format. The gist is that the dominate #1 stations in PPM have a high DAILY CUME and a high number of LISTENING OCCASIONS (getting people to listen more often is more important than listening longer). So, yes you need more listeners to listen more often in order to be #1. I’ve read some blogs who’ve dismissed this as far from enlightening. Bully for them.

As a programmer it gives me more of a focus to dig deeper. (I’ve changed days of week and actual numbers for competitive purposes). My GM and I decided to look at these key indicators closely. We took a 6-month look at each day of the week to see where we are performing the best and worst (based on DAILY CUME for listeners who spend 1:00+ daily with the station). It opened our eyes to new opportunities. We knew our weekends were vulnerable, but we didn’t have a clear sense of how negatively it impacted the DAILY CUME on Monday. It takes a while to get those listeners to come back after we push them out the door on Friday.

We also looked at LISTENING OCCASIONS. We have a relatively high daily occasion count (about 7), but a lower weekly occasions number (about 21). That means when our P1s decide to listen to the station, they are listening and coming back throughout the day. The opportunity is we only get our core listeners about 3 of 7 days per week on average.

So now we have a better sense of what needs done. We need to convert more of P2, P3, and P4 listeners into P1 listeners by giving them a reason to come back more and more often each day of the week. And encourage our current P1s to spend more days per week with us. It involves appointment listening opportunities throughout each day (coming up today at 4:37…) and appointment listening day-to-day (coming up tomorrow at this time…). It also involves creating a relationship with these fans through facebook, twitter, and email blasts. I want all my core listeners thinking about the radio station, when they’re not even listening to the radio station. (That’s a blog entry for another day.)

This research and exercise is a great reminder for me that each minute, each hour, each day, each week is an opportunity to grow ratings. Everything we do — every topic we choose, every promo we air, every news cast, every e-blast, tweet and facebook post matters and can make a difference.

The CUME Game

It’s evident that CUME is the name of the game in the PPM world. Sure you can talk about occasions and ATE, but in the end the only way to truly protect your station from the ebbs and flows of the imperfect Arbitron measuring tool is to have so many listeners that it doesn’t matter if a P1 with a meter goes on vacation. The dilemma is how do you build CUME without marketing dollars? It’s a question that came up recently over lunch with a friend.

1. Be consistent and compelling. It all comes down to what comes out of the speakers. Consistent refers to the quality of the content, not the actual content. Listeners want to invest time into a station that always delivers “the goods.” It’s not about being predictable (see also; boring), it’s about being reliably entertaining and informative. In order to be compelling, you have to create something. It’s no longer acceptable to simply identify and debate the top stories. You must tell stories, make emotional connections, tell the listener something they didn’t know before, put it into context and make it relevant. You should strive to get the listener to say to themselves, “I never thought about it that way before.” If you are able to be consistent and compelling, your listeners will be your marketing campaign. They will tell friends, colleagues and social media networks about what they heard on your show and station, driving new CUME directly to you with a personal endorsement from someone they already trust.

2. Be the station for SOMETHING. Whether it’s traffic on the 5’s, the most accurate weather, breaking news coverage, election coverage, a team’s information station, finanical news, war coverage or other, pick a position and own it. If you don’t have one already look around the market and figure out who / what is being underserved. When you brand your show or station as THEE source for “x” you must tell people what you’re going to do (make a promise), do it (keep the promise), and remind them that you did it (proof of performance). Over time, this will drive CUME to your station, because everyone in the market will eventually know if “x” happens, you go “here.”

3. Social Media. Yes, we all know we need to do social media, but many shows/stations aren’t doing it right. Twitter and facebook are not meant to only tease your show. This is a chance to interact with fans. There are a couple important things to remember; update often and reply to responses. When you respond to a listener’s comment you make a connection. That person will tell his/her friends that you responded and maybe share your response with their social network. That’s the key. You need to find ways to tap into listener’s social networks. Some hosts are now inviting core listeners with large social networks into the studio for a day to blog, twitter, and facebook about what they see, here and experience while at the station. You can also use social media for contesting especially with location based programs like foursquare and give prizes to the first 10 people to check-in at a location.

4. Event Programming. Capitalizing on a major events or stories that your station can own; The Japan Earthquake/Tsunami, The Super Bowl, The Election, etc. Event programming needs to be heavily branded and reinforced during and after. It may include going commercial free or if you can plan far enough in advance attaching a sponsor to it.

5. Station Events. The model for this is WIPs “Wing Bowl.” But, don’t be intimidated. You don’t need 20,000 people to attend your station event to be successful. The key is to provide a unique experience, that listeners determine to be remarkable (ie. Worth talking about.) Stations need to think big and bold and create an experience or provide access that listeners otherwise couldn’t get on their own. It could be a limited-access, high-end tailgate party or an invitation-only leadership seminar featuring big names from the lecture-circuit for selected clients and listeners. Think big. For example, a 10×10 tent at a local car dealership doesn’t count.

Doing one of these things won’t be enough to drive the amount of CUME you need to maintain through a calendar year to be PPM-proof. Find ways to address all of these and if you can secure marketing dollars great, but be strategic and have something to say.