Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Forgive Us Our Deficiencies

Arbitron's Portable People Meter (PPM) shows that public radio's on-air pledge drives cause significant disruption in listening patterns. Daily Cume and daily time spent listening almost always drop, sometimes by more than half.

Early PPM results also show that listening comes back up to pre-drive levels within days of the drive's conclusion. A quick look at commercial radio listening also shows pretty fast recovery times after tune-out events.

Initially, the fast recovery times seem surprising. But they shouldn't be.

Roughly two-thirds of the audience at any given moment are core listeners to a station. They listen to that station more than any other. They obviously like the programming. They became core listeners in spite of pledge drives, commercials, and the occasional bad music selection, talk show guest, or talent miscue.

In short, they have learned to work around or live with the station's deficiencies.

Knowing this isn't a license to abuse the audience. There's probably a fine line between acceptance and intolerance on many programming choices. But this behavior shows the power of programming that resonates with the listener. And it's a excellent reminder that investing in good content and great execution always has a payoff.

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