What Happens When Features Come On?

Coleman Insights recently conducted a study of the Philadelphia PPM ratings to find out “What Happens When Features Come On” the radio. The school of thought has been feature elements would create “appointment listening” drive cume and thus higher PPM levels. The study finds features have very little affect on listening levels but have a bigger impact on long-term brand development. Audiences tune-in specific programming inconsistently, which means only the strongest programming elements really impact listening behavior.

Download the study here.

For my personal summary of major conclusions, keep reading … The study is the first in an ongoing Coleman Insights series, “Mapping the DNA of PPM,” which takes a closer look at how Arbitron’s PPM service reports the responses of radio listeners to a variety of programming elements. During the study, Coleman analyzed the performances of 15 programming features that aired on Philadelphia music stations based on audience data from PPM. In addition, Coleman conducted a 600-person telephone survey to compare the PPM-based results with listener evaluations of the same features.

Summary of conclusions from my review of the study:

  • It generally does not appear that features extraordinarily impact listening levels. However, they remain great tools for brand development and benchmarking talent — just don’t expect an instant ratings boost.
  • Features typically start at with listening levels below regular programming because the transition period (deejay chatter, service elements, commercials, etc) is actually a tune-out for most listeners. However, listening patterns increase as the feature progresses. Listening levels for features are the highest two or three minutes into the element, but start to decrease as the feature extends past six or seven minutes.
  • Features perform best when not scheduled immediately following a commercial break (Actually, the better advice is to get into a feature quickly without a long transition period. I would also propose truly compelling and popular features could be used to maintain listening through short commercial breaks.)
  • Music features generally perform better than talk features on music stations (But, I would assume compelling talk features can perform just as well on music stations).
  • Well-known features typically perform better than unfamiliar ones. Highly-evaluated features perform better than those with lower popularity scores. (Coleman did not explain how you launch a well known and highly popular feature, though).
  • P1 listeners generally accept features in greater levels than non-P1 listeners.
  • Don’t evaluate the value of a feature by looking at just or several days of PPM data. The feature must be evaluated over longer periods because listening patterns are very inconsistent during short-term periods.
  • I’ve advocated the “appointment listening” theory for years. However, with the introduction of PPM, there could be a real danger in promoting too many appointment-setting features. They will just get lost in the clutter.
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One Response to “What Happens When Features Come On?”

  1. Scott,

    I don’t think you can make the assumption that “compelling talk features” can perform just as well as music features. Just my two cents, but it appears on music stations that anything not music-focused leads to mic flight.

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