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by The Lund Consultants

Competition to garner more listeners is fierce. Music research, perceptual and tracking studies, focus groups, and advertising effectiveness studies can lead a station to a larger audience, greater time spent listening, and more ad revenues.

As consultants and researchers to radio stations for more than sixteen years, we've observed a number of research errors. Problems often result in wasted time and money and compromised results. The following information can yield productive results that garner the most important opinions about your station's future -- those of your listeners.

Have specific goals and targets for your perceptual study

The right questions must be asked of the right people. Company goals for the research project should be queried. What information do you want achieved? If exploring the station's image with current listeners is a goal, do the same for competitors.

Research should identify the target listener

"Heavy users" of commercial stations are those most likely to become P-1s who spend at least an hour a day listening and are permanent residents for at least six months. Those who participate should reflect the 30% of a station's cume that accounts for over 70% of the AQH. If attaining larger ratings is the goal, the study should survey a segment of the population that replicates the ratings sampling in terms of demographics, gender, race, and ZIP Codes by county.

Careful screening assures quality control

The screening process assures a perfect sample: those persons who are core and potential core listeners. Serious errors can occur in screening. Avoid inbreeding that comes from surveying only those who already listen to the station, or are "research regulars" or "focus groupies". Don't use a contest winner's list or you'll just be researching "reactive" listeners and not speaking to the "passive" listener who makes up 90% of a station's audience.

Perceptual, focus, or music research sessions should not survey "regulars" who may come from civic clubs which use this as a money-making project, or unemployment offices. While such practices may reduce screening costs, effectiveness suffers.

Perfecting the survey process

Focus and auditorium music sessions need a "controlled" environment. Research should be fun for participants. Testing TV spots and talent airchecks will reduce fatigue during long sessions. Focus groups and music tests must be proctored. Ask unruly or noisy participants to leave, and delete their answers from the results. Supervise telephone interviewers, and call back many respondents for verification. Ask and probe the right questions.

Examples of probing questions:

1. Do you listen more or less frequently to (station) than you did three months ago? Why?

2. Are you listening more or less to the morning show than you did three months ago? Why?

3. Do you listen to radio at work? What station?

4. What station do you listen to most often?

5. What's the one thing you would change about the stations you listen to?

6. How would you describe your favorite station to a friend?

7. What radio talk shows or announcers do you listen to regularly?

8. Which information sources (TV, paper, radio) are the best & most reliable for local news?

Tabulation of data

Displaying all data in computer tables aid interpretation. Lund Media Research provides complete breakouts showing all demo and sex cell combinations to properly analyze results. Attain detailed verbatim remarks for every question; display comments by demo and station profile. Survey work conducted by interviewers entering data directly to a computer will usually generate far more accurate responses than research replies written on questionnaires.

Research Interpretation

The responses to every question and research table should be detailed; conclusions and recommendations should be clear and decisive. Research is a tool that should be tempered with market changes and competitive influences. The research specialist should be totally aware of the local market and how each competitor sounds before making recommendations.

Sample size is important. Because 600 people completed the survey doesn't mean 600 people answered each question. Make decisions using the largest possible sample.

A perceptual research project is not necessarily designed to provide ratings. Avoid the tendency to conclude AQH share from a perceptual, although station cume ranking may be projected. Perform similar tracking studies regularly to show trends in listening.

While music research is summarized in rankers, use individual song profiles to redesign the music library. To assure reliability in auditorium testing, test one song hook twice and compare results for both instances.

To get the most from your research investment, ask yourself:

What do I really want to learn from the market's radio listeners?

If the research tells me to make changes, am I prepared to change?

What needs to be done to implement change?

How will these changes influence ratings and sales?

© 1997 by Lund Media Research /

The Lund Consultants to Broadcast Management, Inc.


All Articles © 1997 - 2022 Dan O'Day. All Rights Reserved