Radio is on a fast track to do some serious evolving over the next couple of years.
What most average listeners don’t know is that for years, ratings were based on a few people in each market that would keep a “diary”. A written day by day, hour by hour account of who they listened to, for how long. It was a very fragile process, but when you’re the only game in town, it doesn’t matter: what Arbitron said HAD to be true!
Then, these past few months, the switch was made to the “People Meter”. A pager-like device that picked up something from the station broadcasting within it’s range. If it could detect a radio station, you MUST be listening.
The result has been nothing less than dramatic. Stations that wallowed at the bottom of the diary ratings were suddenly at the top of the people meter results. Seriously. Suddenly, a #13 station was #1 in the market. The survey was expanded to include 6-year-olds and up.
I heard further proof of the People Meter’s effects this morning on Star 101.5. A commercial ended…and they just rolled into a song. No ID, no talking, no jingle….and this week, they’re featuring one-hour music blocks, sponsored by McDonalds. Of course, if you have a meter, you’ll just keep racking up the points until they play a song you don’t like. What station are you listening to? Doesn’t matter…the machine takes care of that.
And THAT is the problem. Just like the cashier who can’t do the math when the computer crashes, now radio listeners will blindly bounce from station to station and not care which one it is. At least before, when we beat them over the head with call letters and a frequency, you’d remember “Classy” or 92.5…..or the name of the morning show. Now, they don’t HAVE TO remember anything….and that makes radio just that much more forgettable.
Stations used to program to work the Arbitron book…it’s how the game was played. Now, that’s no longer necessary. If the personalities are so weak that playing lots of music spikes the ratings, radio as a whole is in trouble. Then, you’ve just become a music source and those arrogant enough to think THAT will keep people listening must never have heard of I-pods, burning your own CD’s or Internet radio.
I still believe there is a need for radio. Generating revenue has always been the goal, but now it is the purpose. And that’s sad.
Before check out time, I’m more resolved than ever to end up back on the airwaves…if not for an all-out show, for an hour program…just something to show how it should be done.
You’ll know when it happens.