AAA Format

O.K. so I got sucked in.  I know which radio formats work for my particular type of business, but of course, I break what isn't fixed and try something new—AAA (Adult Album Alternative).  I at first saw a decent response, which isn't surprising when you introduce yourself to a new audience, but I have been seeing diminished results steadily since about the four month mark—decent production, solid special pricing (which is key in my business), daypart and frequency are right on—there is a question coming here.  Is there a resource out there that I can tap into that will give me some objective info on what sort of trends there are in AAA listenership lately? - Anonymous


Anon:  The first place you can look is Arbitron’s Format Listening Trends.  From there, you might want to look at some of the articles in these searches (not everything is relevant, but there are a few good discussions): AAA One, AAA Two, and AAA Three.

AC Definition

Hi, Roger:  I know every station should be different regardless if it has the same format.  However, I suppose there must be certain common things that make a station into a “format.”  What are those things in an AC (Adult Contemporary) format?

  1. Is there an Ideal music clock?

  2. How many currents should it play per hour?

  3. How far in time should a station go regarding the music?

  4. How should the events, contests, promos, be?

  5. How do the jocks should sound?

  6. Since this is a format with lots of Oldies and recurrents, how do you differ it from an Oldies station?

Thanks for your help. - Anonymous


Anon:  I know you’re going to hate me for my answer, but I don’t want to mislead you.  Here is my answer:


Your listeners must answer all of your questions.  While there may be some commonalities among AC radio stations, if you use elements or formatics from other AC radio stations, they may not relate to the interests or desires of your listeners.


Your questions form the base of a radio “philosophy” that can cause significant problems: “What works in one market will work in another market.”  As they say in Atlanta, “That don’t be right.”  What you need is a well-constructed questionnaire to ask your listeners.  Some of your questions aren’t easy to ask, so you may need help from a professional researcher.  But, your questions can be answered if the questions are constructed correctly.


Don’t follow.  Lead.  Find out what your listeners want and give it to them.

AC Radio - What Women Want

Doc: Where do I go to find out what women are searching for in AC radio listening?  What type of female consumer listens to ac radio?  Thanks. - The Great One


TGO:  Do you work for Arbitron and are trying to push a research study?  I think this search will provide the information you need.


I've always been curious about this: When traveling in the south I note mostly Northern and Midwestern accents on all but the smallest radio and TV stations. The 6:00 newsperson in Huntsville, AL sounds like the 6:00 newsperson in South Bend, IN. I'm not talking about speaking non-standard dialect, but what is the sin in radio and TV with people talking like the people they serve? - Anonymous


Anon: Good observation. I’m not sure when the emphasis on a "non-descript accent" started—probably long before my time, but I can remember conducting personality tests in the early 70s where we were told to search for people who had a "standard Midwestern" or "unidentifiable" accent.


Maybe someone who reads this column will have a more definitive answer, but my guess is that because radio and TV are mass media, it makes sense (for some reason) to have personalities who have no specific accent—kind of a universal accent that the majority of listeners and viewers can understand, or are willing to accept.


I think there is evidence to back this up when you consider some of the syndicated radio and TV programs (usually 1 to 5 minute editorial or commentary shows) that have been done by people with a distinctive Southern (or other regional) accent. These programs are usually not successful in other parts of the country. An on-air personality with a non-descript, vanilla, plain, standard, unidentifiable (enough adjectives?) accent is generally accepted by more audience members than a person who has a distinctive regional accent. Ya know whut I meen thar, little doggy?

Adding Commercials (Increasing Commercial Load)

I am a PD in a small market where our station is the only one in the format.  Our sales manager said something astounding today.  In order to "make our budget," he wants to add 3 units an hour to our commercial load for the rest of the month (we air 14 units per hour in morning drive and 12 per hour in other dayparts).  I of course was opposed to the idea, and when I challenged him on this, he said, "We are the only station in town playing this music, where else are the listeners going to tune in?  We have a captive audience."  I mentioned people with satellite radio, iPods, computers, etc., and he brushed me off with, "That's only the kids, we don't sell those numbers."  Our sales manager is in his early 60s.  What do you think?  How can I address this with him and the General Manager?  Thank you for your time. - Anonymous

Anon:  I'm sure you know that you aren't the only PD who has faced the conflict between programming and sales, and the comments from your sales manager are typical.  There always seems to be a conflict between programming and sales.  Here is my take . . .


I really need more information to provide a detailed answer to your question.  I don't know anything about your Arbitron ratings, your radio station's budget, the financial condition of your radio station, and the opinions of the GM and owner(s).  However, with the information you provided, here is a quick summary:


1.  Don't add units.  Research for the past few decades indicates that too many commercials turns listeners away from a radio station.  Your radio station may be the only source for the music you play, but you are correct in saying that if your radio station does something the listeners don't like, they will go somewhere else.  There is a major flaw in your sales manager's statement that, "That's only the kids, we don't sell those numbers."  Whoa!  Jump back.  It's not only kids using alternative music sources—people of all ages use them.  I can guarantee from the research I have conducted that many (or most) of your listeners use alternative music sources if you don't provide what they want to hear.  In summary, your argument about affecting your radio station is correct and supported by decades of research.


2.  Add units.  Your sales manager's job is to sell spots to make money to pay for everything and make a profit.  His opinion about adding units only for the remainder of the month sounds logical, but there is no way to determine beforehand if the additional units will have a long-lasting affect on your listeners' perceptions of your radio station.  Sure, adding a few units for a short term may accomplish "making budget," but the short-term "fix" may create a long-term problem.


I know that commercials are necessary to pay for everything and make a profit.  However, too many commercials units can significantly affect listeners' perceptions of a radio station.  I'm never in favor with playing "Russian Roulette" with the audience and guessing what may or may not affect their perceptions.


So . . . I offer a third alternative to your situation: raise the spot rates.  I don't know anything about the sales situation in your market, but if you are sold out and need additional units to make budget, then the radio station's spot rates are priced too low.  Your sales manager can figure out how much additional revenue would be generated by the additional units, and then divide that number by the existing number of spots to determine how much each unit should be increased.


As I said, I would like to have more information, but that's the way it goes.  In summary, I'll repeat that I'm not in favor of short-term fixes that may create long-term problems, and that's what an increase in units suggests to me.

Address Coordinates

Hi Doctorino.  I have the latitude and longitude for something, but not the address.  Do you know how I can come with the address, or at least something within a half mile, using the coordinates?


I have “Googled” it like crazy and have found many sites that will give me coordinates if I give them the address, but not the other way around. - Anonymous


Anonorino:  There are several ways to find such information.  One way is to go to Mapquest.  When you get there, you’ll see an area on the left side of the page where you can enter latitude and longitude.

Address Bar Icon

Doc:  I'm in charge of our radio station's website and I'm always interested in new things.  One small thing I have noticed lately is that many websites, including those for radio stations, use small images in the address bar that show up when I go to the website.  I happened to go to your website and noticed that you have a "W" image in your address bar.  How did you do that?  I'd like to do it for my radio station, although I'm not sure what type of image to use.  Thanks in advance.  - DL


DL: What you are referring to is known as an address bar icon, and the procedure to do it is actually very simple.  Just follow these steps:

  1. Since you aren't sure what type of icon you want to use, it may help to see several examples.  One easy way is to go to the Arbitron page on  Select your market, or any other market, and click on several of the radio stations' links to see which icons are good and which are difficult to see.  You'll notice that not all radio stations use an address bar icon, but there are several good ones, such as those for CBS radio stations that often use the simple CBS logo.

  2. After you have decided what you want to use, make a JPG image of the item, but keep in mind that you are limited to a size of only 16 pixels by 16 pixels.  That's a very small space, but that is the only size allowed.  So . . . I suggest that you use something simple, such as a letter or some other image that represents your radio station.

  3. After you have selected your image, you need to convert it to an "ico" file.  However, if you're like me, you don't have the software to do that.  But, there is an easy way to do this if you go to this website.  Scroll down the page to the little box that has the words "Source image" in it.  Find your image on your computer and then hit the button that says, "Generate Favicon.ico" (FAVorite ICON)

  4. You need to save your image with that exact name—favicon.ico—because that's what web browsers look for to insert your image in your address bar.

  5. Once you have generated your favicon.ico file, the only thing left to do is upload the file to your root directory (main directory) on your radio station's website.  After you do that, clear your browsing history file and restart your web browser.  Your image will appear in the address bar.

Although the process is simple, you may have others questions.  If so, there are many websites in this search that should help.

Adhesive Remover

Hey Doc:  What's the best thing to use to remove the adhesive from a bumper sticker on car paint?  I had to remove 292 bumper stickers from my car (long story…sort of a station vehicle) and some of them came off clean and some left the adhesive behind.  What can I use to remove it without damaging the paint?  Thanks a bunch doc! - Anonymous


Anon:  I know there are many suggestions about the best way to remove bumper sticker adhesive, but the best product I found to remove adhesive is WD-40.  Spray WD-40 on the adhesive, let is sit for a minute, and then rub off the area with a towel.  When you’re done, wash the area with soap and water.

Adult Standards

Considering Adult Standards in a large market.  But the power ratio is terrible.  Most listeners appear to be well over 60. Yet, there is a new crop of younger artists doing this music.  Have you seen an Adult Standards station that did reasonably well in the 45-54 demo?  Or is it a goner? - Anonymous


Anon:  You are correct in saying that Adult Standards radio stations tend to skew old.  If you look at page 19 in Arbitron's publication called, Radio Today - 2006 Edition, you'll see that about 50% of the Adult Standards audience is 65+ —not spring chickens by anyone's definition.


However, the baby boomer group is getting older and I think a few things are going to change with Adult Standards.  The information I have seen suggests that the Adult Standards format will redefine itself to include the new music you refer to—younger artists doing older music.  While I don't see any information to suggest that Adult Standards will attract a huge audience under the age of 40, the Arbitron audience composition table does shows spikes in 35-44, 45-49, and 50-54.  I think these spikes will increase when people in those age cells realize that "new" Adult Standards radio stations are available.


Finally, a radio station's audience composition is a function of what the radio station programs.  If a PD (or whomever) programs to a 55 to dead audience, then that's what the audience composition will be—55 to dead. If an Adult Standards radio station finds out what listeners 35-54 want to hear (or a narrower target within that range), and then gives them whatever it is they want, then the audience composition will fall in line.

Advertising a Radio Station

I have a question about advertising, but I'm not even sure how to ask it.  Hopefully you can figure out what I'm asking!  I'm asking about advertising OF a station, not ON a station.


It seems like (dangerous words, I know) that if a radio station doesn't advertise in any way (no billboards, no TV ads and no newspaper ads, maybe no bumper stickers, no live remotes), even if the programming is good, over time the audience will fall off.  Some of this certainly is audience moving in and out of town or lifestyle changes, but some of it I'm sure is station fatigue, or just plain forgetfulness.


I have heard about stations that have "exploded" due almost solely to word of mouth.  In other words, if what you offer generates a passionate audience, the advertising won't be needed to lift you up in the ratings.


In a way, these two experiences seem either contradictory or depressing.  Contradictory in that you either have to have advertising or you don't; depressing in that 99.99% of all stations aren't creating a passionate enough product to be able to avoid pounding potential listeners over the head with other media if they are going to have an audience.


So the question becomes: do even good and quality products require constant advertising just to keep the current audience?  And if they do, and they're that good, then why?  Why won't word of mouth carry a quality product?


Perhaps a flip-side question: if you have to constantly advertise your station just to stay where you are "audience wise," does that mean that your product isn't that good?


Does this need to advertise change for various age groups?  It occurs to me that younger audiences tend to be looking for "hot" and "new," while older audiences tend to go with what they know works well (or so I've heard . . . Oh no!).


I buy things based on what I see at the time of purchase, perhaps with a brand in mind, but also considering what options are there.  As long as the brand I buy appears to do the best job, an advertising campaign by a competitor won't impact me, nor will I forget that I like "X" brand best.


But how does the general public react?  Does this make any sense?  Do you know what I'm trying to ask?  Thanks. - Gene


Gene: Yes, I think I understand what you are trying to ask—you're asking for an entire course on advertising in one short answer.  I'll see what I can do.


I think the best way is to point out a few things and then give you a few items to read . . .

  1. Just because a product or service exists doesn't mean that people will know about it.

  2. Even if a product or service is decades old, there is no guarantee that people will remember it.  All people are constantly exposed to new information, new products, and new services.

  3. Some products or services do, in fact, become successful without a lot (or any) advertising.  These items are usually unique and create a lot of consumer interest—word of mouth "advertising" becomes all that is necessary.  As you mention, this occasionally happens with a radio station that offers something completely new or unique.

  4. Even though the livelihood of radio and television is advertising, and everything is directed toward getting clients on the air, the worst advertisers on the planet are people who run radio and TV stations.  They want clients to advertise on their stations because they know the value of advertising, but they fail miserably when it comes to advertising their own radio or TV station.  How many times have you heard an owner or GM say that, "We don't have any money for advertising or promotion"?  It's really sick.

  5. All people must pass through 5 Stages of Persuasion before they make a decision about anything . . . including which radio station to listen to.  However, even when a person passes through the 5th stage (Action), there is no guarantee that the person will stay there.  The person may slip back to stage one because of new information, forgetting, and other things.  Click on this link for more information about the 5 Stages of Persuasion.

  6. A consistent advertising campaign is necessary for all products and services.  There is no way around this.

  7. A consistent advertising campaign is necessary for males, females, and all age groups.  There is no way around this.

  8. Advertising is communication, and communication is persuasion.  The most successful way to advertise/communicate/persuade is through repetition of the message.  Once again, people who run radio stations are the worst when it comes to understanding this simple fact.  I can't count how many times I have heard a radio station owner or GM say something like, "We spent $50,000 on billboards for the last book and nothing showed up in Arbitron."  Gag me with a beaker.

Advertising/communication/persuasion is a very complex process that most people don't understand.  The best things to keep in mind are: (1) Don't rely on word of mouth to get a message to the public; (2) The only way to succeed is through multiple exposures over time.


Finally, you ask, "Do even good and quality products require constant advertising just to keep the current audience?  And if they do, and they're that good, then why?  Why won't word of mouth carry a quality product?"


The answer is that all products and services require constant advertising.  Why?  Because we're dealing with human beings who constantly change.  If people are not constantly reminded about things, the "things" will fade away.  Word of mouth is an effective form of communication, but in many cases, it requires additional support and reinforcement.

Advertising: Buying Effective Ad Frequency

Roger:  Great page.  I check it often and really enjoy it.


I have a local John Deere dealer who is trying to understand how many spots he should purchase to reach an effective frequency and bring results.  Is there a formula he can use?  He has a ratings book with cume, average quarter hours, and dayparts, etc. - Anonymous


Anon:  I'm glad you enjoy the column.  Thanks, and on to your question . . .


I'll try not to get to carried away here, but the advertising frequency question is something that has always frosted my shorts.  Let me explain . . .


When I sold radio advertising in the early 1970s, I was told that the goal of radio advertising was a frequency of 3.0, meaning that the best approach is to rotate a commercial schedule over several days or weeks so that an "average" listener would be exposed to the message three times.  I asked, "Why is it three exposures?  How does anyone know that?"  The GM said something like, "Well, everybody uses that.  It has always been three exposures."  My GM's comment reminded me of one way we learn things called, the Method of Tenacity—Something is true because it has always been that way.  (For more information about the Methods of Knowing, read the answer to the question titled, "Tarot Cards" at the bottom of this page in this Archive.)


My GM's answer didn't sound logical to me because I had just finished my Master's Degree in Communication/Persuasion Theory, and nothing I had ever heard or read supported this idea.  I couldn't figure out why anyone would come up with a frequency of three exposures as the most successful way to persuade people to do anything.  It didn't make sense and there is nothing anywhere to support this idea, but I continued my search.


I thought I was missing something, so I called my Master's Degree advisor, Dr. Charles Larson, who wrote the number #1 selling persuasion book in the world.  I asked him about the validity of the "Frequency of Three" approach used in radio.  His comment was, "That's ridiculous because there is nothing to substantiate that idea."  Well, OK, then.


Now, in order to further understand the "ridiculous" aspect of the three exposure idea, you need to know about the 5 Stages of Persuasion.  I have explained this in the column before and don't want to take the time to do it again, so please read this article before you continue with the remainder of my answer.


If you took the time to read the article, you should now understand that we all have to pass through five stages before we are persuaded to do anything, believe anything, try anything, and so on.  With that in mind, how can anyone say that three exposures are the best (and only) way to achieve this goal?  It makes no sense and doesn't follow what we know about communication/persuasion/advertising.


You asked if there is a formula to compute the number of exposures necessary in an advertising schedule.  There are a few, but the most popular is probably something know as Optimum Effective Scheduling (OES) — click here.  You can also find more information in this Archive if you  click here


The problem with OES is that it claims that the optimum number of exposures is 3.29.  Oh my, here we go again.  How does anyone know that?  How does anyone know that a person exposed to a message 3.29 times will be persuaded to do anything?  The answer is— No one does know that.  Allow me to repeat that:


There isn't ONE person on this planet who knows the optimum/best/most effective number of exposures to a message necessary to persuade anyone to do (or believe) anything.


So now what?  If there is no way to know (or predict) how many exposures are needed, then what do you do as a radio advertising sales rep?  The best thing, as in all cases, is to be honest with your clients.  Here's a suggestion, and the approach I used when I sold advertising . . .


Your client can have four tons of audience listening data and other research, but none of that stuff will provide an answer to how many exposures are necessary to communicate with your radio station's listeners.  The best, and only honest approach, is to tell the client that there isn't a valid and reliable formula to compute the exposures necessary, and that the only valid and reliable approach is to invest in as many exposures he/she can afford.  (Whenever a client asked me about the ideal number of exposures, I always said something like, "I don't know.  I wish I did.  The thing is that no one knows that answer because we are dealing with human behavior, and everyone is different.   While one person may be persuaded to do something (or believe something) after only one exposure, another person may require 1,000 exposures.  Since we don't know, the best thing to do is repeat the message as often as possible because one thing we do know is that repetition of a message is the most effective approach in persuasion.)


If your John Deere dealer objects in some way, ask him how many ads/messages he was exposed to before he purchased his refrigerator (or any other product or service).  He won't know.  If he doesn't know how many messages it takes for him to be persuaded and/or make a decision, then how can he expect you or anyone else to know the answer for his John Deere customers?


Explain the 5 Stages of Persuasion to the dealer.  Explain that persuasion requires repetition of a message.  Explain that the goal of his ad schedule should be to reach as many of your listeners as possible with as many messages as possible.  That is the only fair and legitimate way to sell radio advertising.  Optimum/best/most effective advertising frequency formulas are useless because they assume a level of knowledge and/or understanding of human behavior that doesn't exist.

Advertising Buys - Evaluating Radio Stations

Which do you think is the most effective way to compare several similar stations for advertising purposes when an advertising budget is small?  I typically use a 4-book average and compare AQH Rating, and Cume Persons. Then I try to compare cost per point.  Is this an effective method? - Anonymous


Anon:  Your method sounds logical and is probably the procedure used by most buyers.  However, you may also want to contact the radio stations to find out if they have additional demographic or qualitative information that may important to you.


For readers who don't understand all the terms used in this question, click here for a good summary page by Arbitron.

Advertising Buys - Evaluating Radio Stations (GRPs)

Hey Doc: I am looking to run advertising on four radio stations.  They each target the 18-54 audience.  Do planners typically try for 100 GRPs (Gross Rating Points) per week or 100 GRPs over a four week period between all the stations on the schedule?  100 GRPs on each station might be expensive. - Anonymous


Anon:  Your question confuses me because it seems as though I have received a similar question about four times in the past week.  You're either the same person continually sending the same question, or four people are interested in the same thing.


As I have said before, there is no set way that advertising buyers purchase time.  The process depends on the goals of the advertising and the client's desire.  However, if you're looking for a typical approach, I'd probably go with buying more than one radio station during a given number of weeks.  You won't reach 100% of any audience on one radio station, so it's necessary to buy more than one if your goal is to reach everyone.


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