Monday, December 17, 2012
Surprise! Less listening to broadcast radio
The ratings for broadcast radio are finally confirming what many of us know intuitively. Media users are spending less time with their old friend, the "radio." See this recent article in one of the radio trade publications that has heretofore denied such erosion:
Weekly time spent listening declines by 28 minutes.
The average American aged 12+ spent 13 hours and 51 minutes listening to radio a week, according to Arbitron’s RADAR 113 report, which covers March 31, 2011–March 28, 2012. While that’s a healthy number – nearly two hours a day – it’s down 28 minutes a week from one year earlier: 14 hours and 19 minutes. More alarming are year-over-year declines among young adults.
I can hear the spin already. "Statistical quirk." "No problem since folks still spend two hours a day listening to radio." "It's that damn PPM device!" (PPM is the device Arbitron now uses in the larger markets to measure radio listening as opposed to the old methodology: asking a sample of listeners to keep a diary of their radio usage for a week.)
Oh, and the one I expect to hear most: "Doesn't matter. Radio is an average-quarter-hour medium."
Without going into detail, average quarter hour (AQH) is a measure of how many people are listening to a station in an average quarter hour during the time period specified. Radio has always loved this number since listeners tend to jump around from station to station. But if someone who is keeping one of those diaries for Arbitron indicates listening to a station for only five minutes out of a fifteen minute period, the ratings company gives that station credit for keeping the listener for the whole fifteen minutes.
Advertisers, on the other hand, want people to stick around long enough to hear their commercials. And ideally hear them more than one time. That means they care more about time spent listening to a station (TSL). And the newer PPM methodology does a much better job of measuring that parameter than the diary ever did.
Simple fact is people have far more listening choices than ever before. That more and more includes in their automobiles, the traditional bastion of broadcast radio. And at the same time, the nature of over-the-air radio broadcasting today is that programming is less and less innovative and compelling, surrendering precious hours of time spent listening to other sources of entertainment, information and companionship.
So actually it is no surprise whatsoever that people are listening less. And believe me when I tell you that they will continue to do so. At least until someone offers something on the airwaves that makes them not only listen more often but for longer periods of time.
Don Keith N4KC