Friday, November 30, 2012

Damn statistics

I have spent a great deal of my professional life around statistics and broadcasting, with Tapscan and Arbitron (the radio ratings company), and marketing/advertising.  I totally agree with the old saw, "There are lies, there are damned lies, and there are statistics."  In fact, I spent about a dozen years teaching people how to take audience "estimates" and try to make their radio stations look as if they deserved some advertiser's dough, even if the numbers did not appear to justify it.

Truth is, no radio station or cable channel or individual TV show has all the listeners.  There can only be one number-one station or time-slot at a time.  But any ad-based medium must show that it has an audience and that their ears and/or eyeballs have some value to advertisers at some price.  Or that their ears and eyeballs were the precise ears and eyeballs the advertiser most coveted.  That takes skill.  And research that allows the seller to demonstrate where his strengths are.

That brings me to a short article I saw today in one of the radio industry trades.  One that sort of makes my blood boil.  Regular followers of this blog know that I--someone who still believes in the POTENTIAL power of radio for entertainment, information, and advertising--believe current "broadcasters" are fumbling the ball every way they turn.  And with all the other sources of entertainment, information and ads out there to challenge the medium, they radio is fumbling on its own 10-yard line!

Here is the headline:

Study: Pandora users hooked on AM/FM.
Another study confirms that listening to streaming audio services is additive to radio listening and not cannibalizing the medium. A survey by Vision Critical finds that Pandora listeners report spending 50% more time listening to AM/FM radio than non-Pandora listeners.

First, I don't know who "Vision Critical" is or what their methodology was in this study.  And I have no idea how they asked whatever questions they asked.  But every ounce of common sense I have left causes me to seriously question the proposition...of their research, if this story is accurate, or of the story itself if they have found this nugget on their own and it does not necessarily reflect what the study actually determined.

How about you?  Do you really believe that people who report themselves to be Pandora listeners spend 50% more time than non-Pandora users with over-the-air AM or FM radio?  There are only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and 168 hours in that same week.  If you sleep 56 hours, work 40 more, watch the average amount of TV, and have any kind of life, you probably don't spend a ton of what's left listening to anything, Pandora or Hot One-oh-Whatever FM.

And unless you are really weird, when you do listen to something aural and electronic, you only listen to one thing at a time.  So how can you possibly listen to Pandora AND 50% more than other folks to AM/FM?

Oh, maybe the average Pandora listener hears only 15 minutes of their wonderfully-customized music mix.  And they also enjoy 22.5 minutes of AM/FM in the car on the morning commute.  Then it makes sense.

See, I just used statistics to disprove my silly proposition that this "study" is a crock!

Don Keith N4KC

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