Friday, February 22, 2013

TSL Part 2 - Clock Tweaking The Early Days

One of the first programming tricks designed to build more TSL came right out of the 70s.   Buzz Bennett was a pioneer from the old Drake days and came up with lots of tricks and innovations.

For this TSL trick Buzz looked at the Arbitron editing process which gave you credit for the full 15 min quarter hour as soon as you had 7 minutes of listening in the quarter hour.   If you tuned out at 10:07 for another station and noted that in the diary the full 15 min segment to 10:15 was credited to your station.

Buzz looked at the clocks of the day and there were many that ran spots at the :15 and :45 slots and also often ran news at the top of the hour.  Buzz's idea was to move the stop set to at least 7 minutes into the quarter hour and try to get credit for the full quarter hour as much as possible.

Today you can still see that pattern in most of the stations we listen to.  Breaks typically at :22-:25, maybe one around :37-:40 and the last one close to :50 or even later.

While this trick looks like it can't miss there are a few issues.  The first is that hardly anyone fills out a diary minute by minute with the exact time logged in the entry.  We really don't know how the diaries are filled out by the listener.  Some recall what they did today and log it in estimating what they listened to, others fill it out minutes before the mail truck shows up, others may jot down a few entries throughout the day and try to keep up.  Even if they did fill it out right to the minute on their wrist watch - how accurate is their watch?

At the time when the news of Buzz's innovation circled the PD world - clocks changed instantly.   In the end we now have different credit rules with PPM and in PPM the actual listening is automatically recorded so there is no diary keeper estimates in the data.  While we all jumped and Buzz is still a genius programmer on many levels this one probably didn't deliver much help in building TSL as we would have hoped.   Today in the PPM world spot placement follows many new innovations that throw out many of the traditions from this tweak.  We'll cover that more as this series progresses.

Next in the evolution of TSL came the More Music and Longer Music Jams we'll take a look at these tactics next week as we continue to explore the many facets of building TSL.   TSL is a huge challenge as we continue to see more and more options to listening to music from the digital world and over the next month we'll take a full look right here.   Thanks for stopping by and pass the word.   

Friday, February 15, 2013

TSL - The Big Challenge Ahead

As more and more tempting alternatives come pouring into the audience's smart phones, dashboards, tablets and computers terrestrial radio listening continues to hold a reach of 92% of the population weekly.  Ahh but what about time spent listening?  So far the 2012 analysis by Arbitron seems to indicate Radio is holding fairly steady.   But, we all know that TSL is likely going to be the real battle field for the audience's time spent with music and audio entertainment.   All of these music and entertainment options have to cut into Radio's TSL sooner or later.

TSL is very tough to analyze for the whole industry and across all the formats now.  The advent of PPM measurement in the top 50 markets has changed the data dramatically.  We really can't compare the old TSL levels of the diary with PPM's huge volume of tracking data.  Meanwhile we still have lots of 50+ markets that still live in a diary world.  This makes tracking this data across the whole radio landscape nearly impossible.  Even though this 'money ball' data may be impossible to quantify it is still the driving force behind AQH, Ratings and market share.

Much like 'Money Ball' programmers have taken on all levels of data analysis and implemented a number of programming 'tricks' to try and move the magic TSL needle.  Moving the stop sets, billboarding, laying in commercial free blocks, gaming the editing systems for diaries and meters, and appointment listening are some the tools we've tried and still implement today.  But, will they really work as the choices expand from 30 stations on your car dashboard to thousands of streaming stations, podcasts, mp3 playlists and custom built streams?

Over the next 4 weeks as you gear up for the Spring book, or continue your 52 week marathon of ratings measurement let's take a look at the tools we use and perhaps a few we could be using to build more TSL.

We'll start next week with a look at the first 'tricks' programmers used and then progress to the newer tools that we are still developing today.  Next week - moving the stop sets the early days.    I hope you'll tune in and spread the word to fellow programmers and radio pros.