Radio has sold itself in the advertising world by often leaving our best player on the bench for the whole game. That player is our CUME. The total sum of the audience that listens to the station sometime over the rating period. Back in the diary days we'd see a Cume number that was made up of an average of the audience we collected over an average week during the survey period. Usually it was a pretty big number showing a couple of stations maybe reaching 25% of their total market population.
Of course that number came from people remembering to write down the stations they listened to and how long they listened. Now that we have the people meter in the field we can see how wrong the 'recalled numbers' from the audience are compared to their real behavior. It the world of Cume it looks like the diary method caught around 55-65% of the actual Cume numbers for most stations. If you look at a market leading station like WDVE in Pittsburgh in the Diary days it was usually around 450,000 for the cume - reaching a little under 25% of the market which is just over 2 million. In a PPM world WDVE is often 200,000 higher in the Cume numbers with over 600,000 listeners. In fact we usually see 3-4 stations that are above 600,000 in cume in this market each of them reaching around 30-33% of the market. If you segment the market to Women or Men or Younger and Older you can easily reach 50-60% of the market for that demo just by picking the leading station.
For years we've put Cume in the backseat. But we still sell radio and any other media with the goal of reaching the biggest share of the market possible. When we look at a You Tube video campaign - the first number that matters is the 'total views'. The fact that Jeff Gordon's Pepsi Test Drive video spoof is over 38 million views is the number that really counts and the one that the Pepsi guys are toasting over.
The problem is that we've really never had a reliable Cume number to sell with. The averages that often made up our Cume in the diary books are now proven to be way under estimating the real Cume. And since most campaigns run more than just on 'average' week any average week cume number is also way underestimating the real cume audience that the 2-3 week campaign could have reached. It's also like guessing how many stars in the sky tonight - it depends on how many you can see, and our vision is limited.
In marketing a product the goal is to buy a campaign to reach as much of the market and the target as possible with your resources. The more people you get your message to the more people in the store, the more product moved off the shelves, the more car shoppers in the lot, the more people sitting down to dinner, the more people clicking on the buy button and the more people following you on social media and becoming 'fans' of your brand. To accomplish any of the goals we just listed you have to reach a big Cume with your message. Just putting out a steady stream of messages to your 300 fans on Facebook is a not much of a marketing plan to increase your revenue. You need to reach a much bigger number to have an impact and that's CUME.
Maybe what we really need is a better understanding of the Cume number and a better measurement of it in EVERY market. If the buyers of media really understood Cume and if the clients we sell to really understood how to use the Cume to build their brands, ring their cash registers, build their fan base and learn to use radio to take full advantage of our huge Cume audience we would be seeing our revenue shares making some meaningful gains.