I can’t say this any clearer.
Ratings are your report card. Nothing else matters.
Associated Press awards don’t matter. A plaque from a local charity for community service work, while nice, doesn’t matter either. Nielsen numbers are what matters. With higher ratings, come higher revenues. It’s what I call “Rule #1 – Ratings and Revenue.”
Your job as a talk show host or programmer is simple. Get high ratings that can be monetized. This is how you will be judged, through Nielsen. You will also be judged by digital growth, but that’s for another column.
I can’t tell you how many times I have asked a program director or air talent at a troubled station, “What’s your report card?” Most times I’d get a glassy stare back. If you don’t understand what your report card is or how you will be judged and what the rules of the game are, you’re doomed.
Carolyn Gilbert and Leigh Jacobs of NuVoodoo Media recently published an article gathered together using research they’ve done. Since it was Carolyn and radio legend Randy Michaels who about 30 years ago drilled into my head nothing matters other than your ratings, I found this week’s article on All Access worthy reading.
One of the tricks in what I’ll call “gaming” the ratings system is to know who actually takes part in a ratings study. Generally speaking, these are the same people who will play contests and waste their time filling out a Publisher’s Clearing House entry. People you’d like to yell “get a life” to.
Here’s the part talk radio needs to pay attention to.
According to NuVoodoo research, do you know what ideological group is least likely to participate in a Nielsen PPM study? People who consider themselves “very conservative.” The following bar graph explains it.
What audience do most talk radio stations cater to? Yep. The “very conservative” group who aren’t interested in taking part in a ratings study.
And ipso facto what does this mean? It means today’s talk stations are catering to an audience that will not reward them with high Nielsen ratings. I will also add another factoid. A station that caters to a 55 plus audience will not be rewarded with PPM success either. The PPM rewards stations that cater to an “employed audience.” That means a “younger audience” in PPM lingo.
As Carolyn and Leigh write in their column:
We’ve advocated for some time that stations should be looking for TSL and stimulating cume among the right-of-centers – those who resonate with most of the values expressed by the Conservative talk lineups, but have opinions that put them outside the tribe served best by those hosts. Local shows need to find the issues that bring a wider swath of the community together. Issues outside the latest flap with the current administration need to be brought more foreground. Topics revolving around morals, values and ethics – things that conflict with the general compass of right and wrong – need more airtime. Promos and positioning for the syndicated hosts that form the backbone of many stations need to be couched in a manner to showcase the issues that appeal to the widest possible audience.
Cliff-notes. Cast a wider net! Be an advocate for the listener and be his voice. You can lean right of center. Just don’t be a rock eater!
And one more thing. Programmers never forget this. “Promos are more important than the show.” Imaging for any show must be considered “commercials” for that show. PPM data shows people listen for about 8 minutes per occasion. They’re NOT listening to three hours of any talk show. Well thought out creative, scheduled correctly like a commercial, will do more to craft the perception of a show than the show will itself.
Research shows syndicated talk host Sean Hannity is thought of as “informative” by listeners. Rush Limbaugh is viewed as “entertaining.” Note, I didn’t use the word conservative, because that’s not what research reveals. A well thought out strategic imaging plan for shows such as these can provide a perception the shows are more centrist-right than extreme right, making them more appealing to a broader audience.
But, then again there’s always that 25 year old play on words, “right?” I mean correct?
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