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Fred Jacobs is President of Jacobs Media, a media research and consulting firm. Jacobs Media clients have included CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Citadel, Greater Media, MTV Networks, Playboy, Amazon, Electronic Arts, NPR, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Taubman Malls. Learn more about the company here.


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August 2011

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Bob Barnett

As you know, you can make research say anything you want it to say. The PPM results show most people are not reaching to turn off the radio. What it doesn't show is an analysis of active vs. passive listening. The undocking to docking time is about 15 hours a day.

Of the 15 hours of un-docked time, for the average consumer, I'm going conclude that probably only 2-3 hours is spent in the car-where the radio is within reach---in AM and PM drive. The rest of the time, you're passively going about your life...getting ready in the morning (who changes the station when spots come on at home in the morning?) While you're working--unless you're in the car. (Who stops working to reach over and change the station for those 8-10 hours?) etc;

The two critical windows to analyze should be the morning and afternoon drive windows and see if the results are the same.

These are the results over the whole undocked day...but it's only part of the story. We STILL will have to be ultra-careful with spots during the "active" peak times! This is misleading without deeper analysis.

Jon Coleman

I think there are two variables we need to remember. First, as you said, this includes a lot of in home and in office listening. As we pointed out in the research, most people think most listening occurs in cars, whereas in fact it does not. This grossly affects how people perceive commercialization. While we cannot now isolate in car, I guarantee you commercial retention and listening levels are much lower than in home or office. In fact, I ran a model using some “guesses” as to in home and in office retention levels. This is hypothetical, but it makes a point. If in car retention is 70% and in home and in office were both 96%, the weighted retention would be 92%. This is because so much more listening occurs in office and home that it masks tune out occurring in cars. (That said, 70% in car is not bad either.)

As you said, this study does not speak to the perception of the industry regarding commercialization of our medium. Listeners are critical of commercials and it is a cause of people leaving the medium and or reducing their TSL to the medium. It is a partial reason why iPods are popular.

The other day Chris, Greg, Warren and I were having lunch discussing this study. We think that a part of reason for the high retention percentage may be a function of the fact that we are beginning to only measure those who are “commercial immune”. The people who don’t like commercials are listening to radio, but in smaller and smaller numbers and quantity. As a result, their behavior is masked by those who remain as heavy listeners, a segment that for now may be more “commercial immune”.

In fact, we mused that if the radio industry continues its commercial policies or make them worse, we may see retention rates RISE! That’s right, the more we run, the higher retention may go. Why? Well, as radio’s core shrinks because commercials drive people to other media, those immune to commercials will be the only heavy listeners left. If that happened, the retention rates could go higher and higher. Wouldn’t’ that be an ironic Catch 22?

So far, I think the main value of this study is for the industry to use as a marketing piece and to raise questions and issues we can research further. It is not for sales managers to lobby for more commercials.


Jon Coleman
Coleman Music. Trends. Branding.

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