Monday Memo: Welcome to the Spring Book | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

Monday Memo: Welcome to the Spring Book

| March 25, 2019

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — The Nielsen Audio spring survey begins Thursday, and this one matters a lot, because much of Christmas 2019 will be bought-from – and much of early 2020 will be planned-from – these numbers.

The Quickest Way to Move the Ratings Needle

Heaps of audience data demonstrate this: Get listeners who listen to your station most (so-called “First Preference” or “P1” users) to listen even more.  Sounds like double-talk, but that’s the ballgame.

  • As Research Director ratings analyst Charlie Sislen puts it, “Successful stations put their emphasis on their P1s, not their P-Nones.’”
  • His research demonstrates that, overall, less than a quarter of your cume contributes more than half of your Average Quarter Hours.
  • Yes, there is a “phantom cume” that eludes diary measurement and pads PPM numbers. But these listeners don’t matter much.  Half of the typical station’s listeners are P4s who contribute less than 1/5 of AQH. P1 listeners spend an average of 7 hours with their favorite station, and P4s spend less than one hour.

Thus the emphasis at stations I work with: Grow habitual use by heavy users, by doing solid radio, fundamental blocking-and-tackling.  Every effort you make will help, especially if your competitors mail-it-in.

 Think in-car; and occasions, not duration.

There’s little we can do to keep someone who’s arrived at his or her destination sitting in a parking space with the key on Accessories.  The listeners our retail advertisers want to meet are busy people, and AM/FM radio is still their #1 audio choice in-car. And programming at their speed-of-life sure won’t tune-out people listening elsewhere.

For music stations, middays matter more than morning drive. They program for long-duration use, i.e., “the no-repeat workday” from “the station everyone at work can agree on.” “Vertical Maintenance” in programming lingo.  News/talk stations have thrived on “Horizontal Maintenance,” habitual same-time-tomorrow tune-in…

Until President Donald Trump…

…whose mercurial manner often produces multiple intra-day blips. Listeners are in “What next?” mode, and that adds value to on-hour newscasts, which smart stations offer as “a quick update, every hour, throughout your busy day.”  And Fox News Radio affiliates enjoy home field advantage. Occasion, occasion, occasion.

This president is THE – repeat, THE – best thing that’s ever happened to talk radio, and as we have recommended here previously, being The Trump Station can be a powerful franchise.  ICYMI:

And local hosts whose topics and technique are engaging and relevant set the expectation that listeners who miss a day will miss-out.

Remaining Program Directors: Here’s your checklist.

Because it would be un-consultant-like for me not to offer one:

  • Are topics relatable and inviting?
  • Do hosts say “you” a lot?
  • Do hosts keep setting the stage as audience tunes in?
  • Hearing “local relatables?” (Content that you’d have to explain it to an out-of-towner.)
  • Teasing next quarter hour (“vertical maintenance”)?Same-time-tomorrow (“horizontal”)?
  • Do traffic reports actually HELP? Monitor while driving the pattern.
  • Are news stories interesting and well-written? Or does copy sound like press releases?

 Bottom line?  Ratings are a memory test.

The diary is a ballot; and in PPM markets – where sample size makes every panelist super-important — awareness drives usage.

I’m Amazon Prime and I have Alexa in three rooms, and the Amazon Music app on my phone.  So I don’t need to sit through commercials on a classic rock FM to hear Crosby Stills & Nash.  Still, I do ask her to play several classic rock FMs I cume because of how they do what they do.  So regardless of format, obsess on relevance.  Say things that’ll make a listener think “Hmmm…”

And cut-to-the-chase.  Seem different than yesterday, and self-explanatory the very moment someone tunes-in.

Those growling promo liners are all-well-and-good (most aren’t actually, too often they’re boastful and station-centric, and don’t say “you” and “your” enough, but I digress).  Imaging merely makes a claim.  Your show DELIVERING will keep ‘em coming back for more.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” available exclusively from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice