Misreading PPM and What Drives Ratings

Here is a thought provoking article from Jon Coleman the CEO of Coleman Insights Research.

It has been more than three years since the last PPM-measured markets were launched in the US and Canada. As an industry we have learned a lot about ratings, most of which has been good for radio. However, reflecting on what we have learned, I wonder if we are focusing so much on reducing tune out that we have ignored or paid insufficient attention to what makes a person a loyal fan. And, I wonder if part of the declining loyalty to radio stations as evidenced by a decline in listening to the medium as a whole is a function of reacting incorrectly to the data we generate from PPM.

PPM is great at measuring audience. I think everyone will agree that it has shown us that there is a big difference between what people think they are listening to and what they are actually are listening to. PPM has also helped radio cleanse itself of a lot of self-serving programming “junk” that stations used to run because pre-PPM there was no evidence that it was hurting the ratings.

However, I think that PPM may have caused radio programmers to become slaves to the “in the moment” and lose track of what really builds ratings. I know from all the research that Coleman Insights does is that what really builds ratings is not eliminating every possible tune out, but rather offering emotion-evoking reasons people can love the station. When people like or love a station they tune into it every day or even several times a day. When we reduce tune outs all we do is “maybe” save a quarter-hour. We don’t build loyalty. People don’t come back to a station tomorrow because of a reduced tune out today.

Here is the comment I posted on Jon’s site “Jon… glad to hear someone else stating what we feel is rather obvious. For too long some programmers have been “duming down” the product to the extent that so many stations sound the same. Most stations have the ability to play the right songs (not always in the right order, but that is another story), so it is what happens between the records that sets one station apart from another. Notr enough effort goes into this area in our opinion. Also too many stations fail to think “local” and seize the moment which is what creates water cooler talk, and what grows ratings. I will put a link to your article on our website if you don’t mind.”

Read the rest of Jon’s article here