Friday, March 29, 2013

TSL Part 7 - Picking Your Moment

As we head into our 7th in a series on Time Spent Listening tactics we have covered different theories, tricks an practices programmers have used to improve TSL.   Radio is clearly facing lots of new options for entertainment and music as the internet continues to expand.   While we have seen our cume levels hold up fairly well you can see that all the new options are draining TSL.   We have been reviewing the evolution of the past tactics in this series to get all of us focusing more on strengthening TSL.

This week we are looking at some new thinking that is starting to evolve as we see more and more data from  the PPM world.   The thought here is to focus on key stop sets or key times of the day when you have high usage (PUR or PUMM) and can get the most impact from a TSL extending piece of programming.

Mark O'Neill and his ROI Media Solutions team are behind the discoveries here and Mark spoke the the last Arbitron Programmers Conference in December.
Mark's Proposal here is to look for those key moments during the day that occur on a regular/daily basis and use those to implement key TSL tactics.  For example you may find that around 4:40 you see a spike in overall listening on a consistent basis but for your station there is perhaps a dip in listening or no advantage to you even though the 'tide is high.'

Mark's idea is to 'fire your tactic/heat seeking missile' here.  It's more than just roaming over the listening levels and then looking at your ratings.  PPM puts out a TON of data and bringing it all together takes careful sorting of the data and unique analytics.    You can learn a lot more catching Mark's presentation here.

You may wonder how just focusing on one quarter hour or even a key stop set could actually bring on a meaningful gain for the overall ratings.  Mark's theories and proposals seems to have 'proof' that there are clear improvements with his tactics and strategy.  You can learn a lot more catching Mark's presentation here.

TSL is going to be the key to keeping terrestrial radio strong as more and more options appear.  We'll sum up the series next Friday with a review and some thought/debate on the effectiveness of the strategy and tactics we've used to improve TSL over the years.    Thanks for sharing this series with fellow programmers. We all have a great opportunity and a big challenge ahead as more and more options for the audience appear daily.

Friday, March 22, 2013

TSL Part 6 - The People Meter !!!

As our tale of the evolution and tactics programmers have used  to increase Time Spent Listening  rolls on we suddenly hit a very different reality - the People Meter.   As the top 50 markets moved from the diary method of gathering data to the new People Meter suddenly we began to see TSL take on a lot of new tactics and thinking.

PPM gathers listening data in the sample with no listener bias.   PPM's don't forget which stations they punch up on the commute or what they listened to all day at work.   It doesn't ignore dad listening to the hip-hop station after he picks up his son from practice - even though he has no idea who Drake is.

On the other side you also have lots of programmers still living in the non PPM world in the 180+ markets that still rely on the diary.

As we began to break out the minute by minute data and saw actual content in Media Monitors you could see a lot of different patterns developing.   What we saw overall was that TSL was way down from what we had in the diaries.  People listened to many more stations than they noted in the diary and punched around a lot more than we saw when they had to write it down.

Spot breaks suddenly began to look a lot more dangerous than they did in the diary world.  Longer jock breaks became a death zone in PPM as the audience tuned out sooner than we had thought.   Playlists also took a hit - suddenly taking any chances at all looked a lot more dangerous when you could lay the PPM graph right over time period you played that deep cut and see the impact.

Remember the first tactic we noted in our series here of building the clocks to avoid breaks on the top/bottom/15 and 45 times in the hour?   You can read about it below.   That tactic was one of the first ones that saw a tweak in the PPM world. Looking over the tune in and tune out patterns it became obvious that while the no breaks on the quarter hours clock set up that had become the 'law of the land' in diaryland it may not be ideal for the PPM world.

Actually the clock that has evolved is often called the Bow Tie clock as it pushes the spot breaks to the 15 and 45 spots in the hour.   The top and bottom are still left as music islands, but now the actual listening patterns showed advantages to breaking a lot closer to what was no man's land in the diary world.

We also saw a renewed interest in the longer music sweep.  Instead of trying for 'repetitive' style music sweeps with 10 in a row every hour the new tactic was more about 'commercial free hours' and 'commercial free days.'

Appointment listening still seemed like a meaningful tactic in PPM.  TSL does improve by making appointments and you can get some audience to come back if you work at making an appointment that is worth keeping.  The problem is that this tactic isn't as effective as now we see the reality of how much time the audience really spends with each button punch to a station.  It's no where near what we thought it was in the diary world.   The averages vary a lot by station but in the end the reality that when we see all their listening data (not just what they can remember and write down) the TSL is not nearly as long as it was in diaryland.  Of course the good news is that the audience listens a lot more stations than we saw in the diary.   Our reach and Cume numbers are way more than we saw in the diary.

Next week we will take a look at the newest tactic based on PPM where key hours and times are targeted to improve TSL.   Again thanks for spreading the word on this series.  As more and more entertainment and music listening options blossom in the digital world the need for TSL will be crucial for our brands.  We'll need new thinking, creativity and the guts to try new ideas to keep our media valuable in the future.

Friday, March 15, 2013

TSL Part 5- Make An Appointment

As we continue on exploring the tools of TSL that radio programmers rely on we come on the advent of Appointment Listening.

The idea is to set appointments with the audience to listen at key times.  'Tune in at 9a - 2p - 5p' to enter the contest or for some other event.  Really this is recycling in many ways but the theory and 'science' behind it is different.

Most of the TSL tactics we used were to try and extend the current listener.  Get them to listen through the stop set or just give us another 3 or 4 minutes, or maybe another quarter hour.   Stretch what you have.

Here the idea is 'worry more about getting them to come back.'  Again the practice here has roots in breaking down Arbitron data.  If your average listener averages 15 minutes with your station in their tuning occasions - if you can increase the number of times they punch in to your station your TSL will grow a lot more than fighting to hold them for another 5 minutes.

Another key in this tactic is to come right out and promote the times and make the appointment.  This throws out the thought of 'listen all day - you never know when we will give away the big prize'  Here you come right out and admit - listen at 1:10 to win.

This idea does work if you have a good enough 'hook' to set the appointment with.   A lot of the focus here has been with contesting.  Now that we have PPM data you can see this tactic working on many stations.  There are clear spikes around contests with appointment listening.   In the diary world you can also find data that shows success in building more TSL with appointments.   There are also stations that use this tactic all the time and have little to show for it.  The key is having good content and contests to make sure the audience will keep that appointment you tried to make.

Next week we'll start to look at the PPM era tactics of TSL.   Thanks for spreading the word on this series - we've seen a lot more activity on the blog.   While TSL has always been important to programmers to build winning brands and stations it's becoming a crucial tool as we approach the digital and mobile world ahead.  Suddenly we have a lot of new competition for the audience's time and ears.   Keeping the entertainment and attention on our brands will be key and keeping up the usage and TSL will have to be a top top priority.

Friday, March 8, 2013

TSL Part 4 - Billboards And Recycling

As we explore the tools of TSL, along with their effectiveness and history there are 2 tools that may seem a bit simple and obvious - Billboards and Recycling.  

The Billboard may also be known as the 'Tee Up', 'Set Up', or 'Tease' and can be very effective in the right hands.    Just before the spot cluster kicks off we 'billboard' a big event coming out of the stop set and hopefully everyone is so excited they don't tune out during all the commercials.   In the right hands and with the right content it can work.   But the key is 'in the right hands' and 'with great content.'   "Coming up another Katy Perry song" in CHR radio today is probably not going to get many to sit through 5 minutes of commercials.   When Katy finishes her new songs this summer you can probably get a crowd to stick through the spots for the 'first play' of the new song.  

Billboards can be a great TSL weapon, if they are well executed and justified.   In many ways we haven't really built them into an art, instead they have become a necessary task and show up before nearly every stop set without much thought or prep.  Especially now in the PPM world the billboard could be one of the most effective weapons.   How well it's used by the talent is the key.  In today's world of voice tracking dayparts and even letting some dayparts and weekends roll without air talent it seems like billboarding is taking a back seat and not being utilized or developed much as a TSL tool.

The other tool we're looking at this week is Recycling.   In some ways it's like billboarding but here the dynamic is not just to hold the audience through the stop set and into the next quarter hour - it's trying to get them to come back to another hour or daypart or day.   The most recycled daypart is Mornings with most shows getting regular sweepers and mentions throughout the day.  

While Mornings are very important what about the other dayparts?   Building up at work listening, making sure the Morning audience is also there in afternoons and could you get a little more out of evenings with some more exposure throughout the day?

Both of these techniques are obvious and they do work.  Perhaps more so in a PPM world than in the 'recall world' of the diary, but they can pull the audience through a stop set and they can build numbers for other dayparts.   The challenge is that it's effectiveness relies on:

  1. Great Content - If you don't have something big to billboard or recycle it doesn't work as well. 
  2. Preparation - You have to plan this out to make it really work.  You need a full recycling plan, running weekend recycling on Monday probably won't be as effective as Thursday.  
  3. Air Talent - Some have a real talent for building up the excitement and some just seem to go through the motions here.   In the end the air talent has to prepare the teases - hunting down the best content in the hour and packaging it to be effective.  Are we teaching, coaching and evaluating this trait anymore???   
There really isn't anyway to find any research or metrics to prove that Billboards and Recycling help in actually delivering TSL.  Based on what we can see in PPM tracking there may be some evidence, but since we really don't track the 'content' of every billboard and compare it to the audience graphs (like we do with music and spots) we really don't have any 'proof.'   But we all know that billboards that are skillfully delivered, well planed and that promote captivating content the audience will stick around or try to come back. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

TSL Part 3 - The Music Sweep WARS

We continue exploring the importance and evolution of the Tools of TSL for radio programmers.  Last week we looked at the early days of clock tweaking to Arbitron's editing system.  This week we'll see how programmers turned to more obvious marketing tactics in the 80s.  

The decade brought on the advent of 'commercial free' sweeps, hours and even days.  In Detroit WLLZ launched with months of commercial free music into a crowded rock battle and wiped everyone with format leading shares in the debut book.   We had every kind of name you could imagine to package 20-40 minute blocks of music and the long music sweep fever became a part of nearly every music format.

Contesting was also a part of the marketing.   Stations started building in 20 song marathons every few hours and backing it up with - 20 songs or $20,000.   Many DJs in those days of live control rooms feared skipping a song or having an unforced error cost the promotional budget 20K during their watch.   Others set their clocks to always promise 8 in a row every hour or some always played 25 minutes music sweeps with only 2 tops sets in the hour.  It seemed there was no end to innovative clock systems to build in music sweep tactics.  It kept us busy in Selector and no doubt made many a traffic director duck when we came into the room.  

This tactic clearly worked for many stations.   The WLLZ story may have been extreme but you could see a number of other stations pull in stronger TSL with the music sweeps.   The problem is that wars started and the music sweeps also didn't lower the commercial load - it just moved more spots into some hours and less into others.  While you reaped more TSL in this hour it was quickly give up in the next hour with long stop sets.  

There were also lots of concerns from the sales teams.  Going on the air and proclaiming that 'commercials=bad' wasn't exactly making it any easier to convince the clients that radio was their best friend for marketing their brands with those 'evil commercials.'  By the mid-90s the more music/commercial free tactics started to fade.  Between the sales concerns and the over hype of nearly every station trying to out due their competitors in the arena it looked like the fad had run it's course.    But like any fad it can, and probably will, come back.  

PPM has brought new life to the 'B97 (((MONSTER))) Music Marathon' with the long music sweeps playing a role in the TSL tactics and strategies today.  In fact they are really enjoying a bit of a comeback.   In PPM the minute by minute - hour by hour - tracking of the tune in and tune out shows that the music sweeps are effective.  In the PPM markets there are commercial free days and hours built into many logs and dayparts.   Programmers have started to look at every hour and plot where to pull in the most benefit from TSL more music tactic.

Next week we'll see the TSL tactics start to shift back to more of the Money Ball - Arbitron Data analysis side of the quest.   Thanks for stopping by and let your radio friends in on this series.   Improving, keeping and developing TSL will be radio's key need as more and more media options evolve in the digital world.   We all need to master the art of TSL.