Nearly 50 markets have joined the ranks of PPM, and as consultants, we continue to field questions every day related to talk content, and that delicate balance between personality and music delivery.
Many personalities and teams have supposedly been displaced by PPM, despite strong historic performances in the diary. But with meters, the rules have changed and not all shows have made the transition seamlessly. I think about what must have been happening in the movie industry when “talkies” came along and replaced silent films. Not every star was able to adapt to “multi-media films.” Ironically in radio, many of those who have talked so successfully for decades have now been forced to rethink some of the basic tenets and architectures of their shows with PPM.
Along these same lines, many stations – especially those who have been community-focused traditionally – are grappling with the question of how to pull off “radiothons” and other charitable initiatives without paying a huge price in a PPM weekly (which of course, leads to a PPM monthly).
Public radio stations have discovered that pledge drives essentially fall into that category. Their audiences – even the most loyal Super P1s who are “members” in good standing – have let them know for years that these “beg-athons,” while necessary for keeping the doors open, the lights on, and the great programs on the air, can be toxic for sustained listening. PPM has confirmed that reality in spades.
But public radio stations have to participate in some form of fundraising (although the person who invents a PPM-friendly option that raises just as much money – or more – will win the Carl Kasell Award for Fiscal Creativity).
For some perspective, I turned this question over to Buzz Knight, Greater Media’s programming guru. As most of you know, Greater Media stations, as a rule, tend to be very community focused, and that comes from Peter Smyth and the Bordes family at the top. But like any other broadcaster, they face the same ratings pressures in PPM in market after market.
Buzz, like many of you, is losing more than a little sleep these days over these types of dilemmas. Here’s his view:
I woke up in a cold sweat last night. I had a dream that PPM and its challenges had buried programmers into a frozen fear that charity and community service was "anti PPM."
Please tell me it's a bad misguided dream. One of the most gratifying parts of the job we all do is how we make our communities better places.
I'm so proud of the work that our industry does and of the tireless work that the members of our Greater Media family do raising millions of dollars and raising awareness to support important causes. It's a vital piece of our DNA.
Yes, it's true that the advent of PPM forces us to rethink how we do everything. This includes charity. When we peel away what great brands stand for - much like we peel apart an onion - within that core includes:
- Great blood drives for a community in need
- Radiothon auctions to support veterans causes
- Food drives that fill a motor home full of abundance for a local soup kitchen
- A recognition campaign honoring the work of exceptional women
The list can and should go on and on.
Let's be great tactical and strategic programmers, but let’s not lose our heart and soul.
And so that brings us to that balance question. Is it a matter of "we should/we shouldn’t" when it comes to community and charity? Or is it a matter of how can we best support local causes and civic groups in ways that minimize meter migration?
Is there also a calculus that demands us to weigh the short-term price of a less-than-stellar day in PPM against the long haul brand value of being more than a jukebox and truly making a difference in your hometown? When you think about vital stations that truly mean something in their communities – and the list is too long to mention here – don’t these stations have to continue their good work, just as much as public radio stations need to earn financial support from their audience?
It’s a question of balance.