Monday, March 16, 2009

Massaging oneself

No subliminal titillating message in that title! I continue to be amazed at the attitude of radio broadcasters and their trade publications who continue to please themselves instead of facing reality.
Especially when they tout things like "Radio Touches 234 Million." That was one of the headlines in today's INSIDE RADIO e-newsletter.

Look, I know any publication like INSIDE RADIO that depends on the medium it covers for subscribers cannot always tell it the way it really is. They must search for a kernel of good news among all the bad seed out there. The story that accompanied that headline:

"The latest RADAR report from Arbitron reveals the medium reaches more than 234 million persons (12+) during a typical week. That 92% exposure rate is steady despite growth of MP3 players. The report shows 89% of teens (12-17) also tune-in each week."

Well, whoop-de-damn-doo!

92% of the people in the country were exposed to radio in a typical week. That's based on what we call "cume." That's the data extrapolated from the number of diarykeepers or members of a PPM panel who listened to radio at least once, for at least five minutes, sometime during the period they kept a diary or toted a PPM. A person would have to be dead to not be exposed to at least that tiny sliver of radio. I ate lunch in a Subway today and had no choice but to listen to an urban AC station that played absolutely nothing I wanted to hear for the half-hour I was there, munching on my meatball marinara. I would never deliberately listen to this station. But that lunch entertainment made me one of those 92% who were exposed to radio.

This number comes at a time when the average amount of minutes a typical person spends listening to traditional over-the-air radio is fading faster than George Bush's legacy.

Nothing wrong with looking for a speck of good news. But does that speck blind us to reality at a time when reality is what we really need to face if we are to save this wonderful medium from itself?
Are we simply engaging in media onanism, making ourselves feel good about the way things are going?

Don Keith N4KC

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