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New product will track radio audience behavior in real time

Posted on: 01/15/2008

From Radio & Records: In the 1970s, Dwight Douglas [pictured, right] fantasized about a whimsical research tool that would show instant audience reaction to his every programming move: a massive map of the local market covered with thousands of miniature lights, each representing a listener. When one lit up, it meant someone was tuned to his station. Sitting in his office, he imagined the lights flickering on and off in direct response to station programming, helping him determine which songs, personalities, bits, commercials and contests were hits or misses.

Now VP of marketing at RCS-Media Monitors, Douglas may soon see his dream come true. Working with Arbitron, Media Monitors is testing a revolutionary new Web-based product with the working name of Audience Response.

By combining real-time airplay data from Media Monitors with corresponding minute-by-minute audience information from Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM), programmers can view an electronic graph of their audience flow. Clicking on listening spikes or dips in the graph triggers playback of the audio that aired at that precise time, offering insights into how specific programming elements affect actual audience behavior—sort of like the illuminated audience map Douglas imagined 30 years ago…

Mercury Research president Mark Ramsey [pictured, right] cautions that the PPM measures behavior, not preference. “Behavior means I turn the radio on or off because of who’s in the car with me or because I’m getting out of the car,” he says… “You can either play songs listeners like or play songs that happen to fall when they’re not getting out of their cars.”..

Coleman Insights VP Warren Kurtzman [pictured, left] fears that minute-by-minute audience data could blind programmers from seeing the bigger picture. “There are things your radio station can do that, in the short term, will cause your audience to go down, but may be outstanding for you in building your brand,” he says. “And there are things that may generate a tremendous amount of listening in PPM but may be detrimental to your brand or your competitive position.”..

Still, such advanced tools as Audience Response could help radio catch up with other industries in understanding how consumers use their products…

Kurtzman says… “As advertisers continue to demand more accountability, we’re going to have to increase the precision of the measurement system even further,” he says. “Eventually, we’re going to get to the point where buyers want to know exactly who they’re reaching when they run advertising.”

Read this entire article in Radio & Records’ January 11th “Future of Radio” issue, or online at radioandrecords.com.



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