Ratings are up! What have we done right?

Ratings are down! What do we change?

Evaluating your programming based upon the tiny sample size in the PPM ratings is a slippery slope. I’ve seen a station lose 100,000 cume in a week and go up in share. I’ve seen four meters from a family away for a long weekend cut a station’s share in half.

So, how do we know what to do when the ratings come in?

The Truth

I suggest that we can learn something about programming our radio stations by looking at our faith journey.

As Christians we search for guidance through the truth of the Word and wise counsel.

“Thy word is truth” (John 17:17b)

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16

I realize its a bit wacky to put the Bible and market research in the same sentence, but I think its fair to say that research is the most objective reference point in evaluating whether your station’s programming is on track.

It can show you the strengths and weaknesses of your station, the overall appeal of your format, and what messaging will be meaningful to your fans and conducive to attracting new listeners. This valuable resource can also uncover the strength of personalities, the relative importance of features or service elements, and whether the staff should get free coffee.

While we all love to tinker it is important not to overreact to changes in the behavior of a few panelists in the weekly or monthly ratings. If there’s a sudden burp on the PPM radar go back to What We Know to Be True. Objectivity is found only in market or music research, not the comments of the sales manager’s cousin or the latest complaint from a listener.

As an example:

Every year I’m involved in discussions about the validity of all-Christmas music programming, an often polarizing programming tactic where smart people can disagree. While I’ve made recommendations on both sides of the argument depending upon the station’s goals and competitive dynamics, in a recent discussion I went back to What We Know to Be True. That station’s market research revealed that 80% of their listeners said they would listen all or most of the time to a station that played all Christmas music. In other words, if they didn’t do it their own listeners would likely tune somewhere else for it.

That one piece of research made their decision obvious. Without it we might still be talking about how Aunt Minnie doesn’t like Burl Ives.