Our competitor’s station cluster has been successfully using direct marketing of their stations—mailers, telemarketers, and hand-outs of off-air contests at concert and local events. I have tried to get my station group to do the same direct marketing, but they say we don’t have the budget for it. Is there a way to do direct marketing “on the cheap.” Their Arbitron numbers are HUGE compared to ours. Any ideas? - Anonymous
Anon: Well, let’s see here. You say that your competitor is using several types of advertising and the station’s numbers are huge (a cause-and-effect relationship) as compared to your numbers. You assume that the advertising is the “cause” for the event (high numbers).
First, let me address the relationship. Is the advertising/marketing the only reason for your competitor’s huge Arbitron numbers? To verify this relationship, you must establish at least three things:
Temporal Precedence. You must establish that the cause happened before the effect. You can probably do this.
Covariation of the Cause and Effect. Covariation means that two things vary together, usually referred to as “If X, then Y” and conversely, “If not X, then not Y.” In your example, this comes down to, “If advertising, then high Arbitron numbers” and “If no advertising, then no high Arbitron numbers.” Got it? There is a problem here because you can’t establish what your competitor’s numbers would have been without advertising. You can’t go back in history and remove your competitor’s advertising. You can only assume the relationship exists, and in scientific research, assumptions “don’t be right.”
No Plausible Alternative Explanations. This is one of the goals of scientific research—to eliminate all plausible (possible) explanations for an event. When you eliminate all other possible explanations, then the result(s) you identify may be correct. In your case, just because the radio station has huge numbers does not mean it’s a causal relationship. It’s possible that another factor is causing the outcome (huge Arbitron numbers). One such factor is the radio station’s programming. The radio station may be giving listeners exactly what they want and the huge Arbitron numbers would be achieved even without advertising.
See what I mean? In other words, you can’t simply assume that your competitor’s advertising is the cause for the huge Arbitron numbers. However, what you can say, is that your competitor probably has “its act” together and is communicating that fact to the listeners. You can say this because it is well established that you can’t “sell” a bad product in advertising. That is, the product or service must be good (or “worth it”) for the advertising to have an effect. (Advertising a bad product or service may be successful in the short term, but it never works in the long term.)
With that said, let’s assume that your radio station and your competitor’s radio station are equal in every way—both stations are exactly what the listeners want to hear. Your competitor spends money for advertising and promotion, and you don’t. The Arbitron comes out, and your competitor cleans your clock (gets higher numbers than you do). At that point, you probably could say that the advertising was the cause for the numbers.
Most of us have heard managers say that there is no money for advertising and promotion (and research too). This is a sad commentary on the management’s understanding of business. If you don’t find out what listeners want and then tell them what you are and how to find you, you can’t expect them to find you on their own. The way to HAVE a budget for advertising and promotion is to increase sales. The way to increase sales is to have more listeners. The way to have more listeners is to find out what they want and communicate with them via advertising and promotion. In other words, no research and advertising/promotion, no budget.
To answer your question, I’m sure there are a few ways to get your message out “on the cheap,” but nothing is going to replace the tried-and-true methods of communication that have been used for years (TV ads, direct mail, telemarketing, etc.) Managers hoping for exposure via some type of extraordinary event (your radio station wins an award and is covered in all the media every day for 30 days straight), probably also read horoscopes.
Dirty Harry - Clint Eastwood Quote
Doc: I remember watching the
Clint Eastwood movie, "Dirty Harry," but I can't remember the lines about
"firing six shots or only five." I can't find it on the Internet. Can you
help? - Anonymous
Anon: The scene you're referring to is at the beginning of the movie when Dirty Harry has an encounter with a bank robber. The thief is on the ground reaching for a shotgun when Harry comes up to him, points his gun at him, and says:
"I know what you're thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"
The bank robber then takes his hand away from the shotgun. Harry starts to walk away, and the robber says, "I gots ta know" (in reference to whether Harry has one more bullet in his gun). Harry aims the gun at the robber's head and pulls the trigger. It's then you find out that he fired six shots, not five—the gun was empty.
Dirty Harry Quote Again
Doc: In the movie, "Dirty Harry," does Clint Eastwood say (to the bank robber), "Do you feel lucky, punk?" or "Do I feel lucky, punk?" - Anonymous
Anon: I'm amazed how many times I'm asked this question. Maybe I'll clear it up this time. However, instead of me telling you the line, why don't you watch the clip from YouTube.
Now, if you watched the movie clip (since you gots ta know), you'll notice that the title of the clip (at the top of the little screen) is wrong. The person who uploaded the clip needs to correct the title . . . he/she gots ta know the correct line.
If a competitor goes on a house-to-house campaign urging your listeners to change their dials to their station, what's the best antidote to this “dirty tactic?” Thanks. - Anonymous
Anon: I don’t agree that what your competitor is doing is a dirty tactic or dirty trick. It’s another form of advertising. They could also call people on the phone, send a letter to every household, or stop people in the streets, among other things. I have seen radio stations use many dirty tricks, but this is no different from Pepsi inviting Coke drinkers to try Pepsi. Or Apple airing commercials on TV showing testimonials of people who have switched to Apple.
The most important thing is whether there is a reason for your listeners to try the competitor. If there is something wrong with your radio station, the listeners may try the competitor. If your radio station is providing what the listeners want, then the competitor’s invitation may fall on deaf ears (so to speak).
Based on my experience investigating competitor attacks (and dirty tricks), the best approach is to ignore the campaign. This is especially true with dirty tactics where your competitor unfairly criticizes your radio station. Leave it alone. Listeners aren’t dumb. They know when a radio station is begging. If your radio station is good, you won’t have to beg.
Dear Dr. Dude: Someone has asked me who "Diogenes" was and what was he seeking? I know it's a bit out of your area of expertise, but then is there an area out of your expertise? Can you help? Thanks. - David
Dear David Dude: The original plan for this column was to answer questions only about radio research, but that changed immediately because I received questions like yours. So, no, this isn't out of my area—it's easy to find information about almost anything.
I have to admit, though, that I had to rely on the Internet for information. The last time I read or heard anything about Diogenes was in graduate school—several years ago. I remembered who he was, but not what he was searching for.
Anyway, Diogenes was a Greek philosopher (aren't all ancient Greeks?) who is known as "Diogenes the Cynic." Historians say Diogenes was a strange character—rather eccentric. He reportedly lived in a huge tub and roamed Athens with a lantern during the daytime seeking an honest man. He never found one. There's your answer.
Disasters and New Music
Hi Doc! Now that part of the eastern USA has been flooded with snow (at least that’s what I heard in the news here in Europe), I have an interesting question.
In times of trouble, is it better to play more familiar and less new music on the radio than when everything’s fine? My theory behind this would be that when everything’s running smoothly in a radio station’s area, the listeners will be more set for news the radio station has to bring, such as new artists and new songs by already known artists (together with features about that new music). In contrast, if there are disasters like electricity outages, broken street connections, etc., I think the listeners would rather like to hear about what’s happening outside than about some unimportant new music artist or new song, and have some “relief” between the news bits by hearing “good” familiar songs they already know and are able to rely on.
Do you know anything that supports (or defeats) my theory? - Kurt from Austria
Kurt: You always come up with interesting questions. It must have something to do with the air in Austria. I have never heard anyone ask this question, so I’ll do my best with an answer.
Since I don’t have research related specifically to your question (nor have I ever seen any), I’ll have to apply what we already know to your question.
First, in times of serious trouble or disasters, radio listeners and TV viewers want information about the troubling event or disaster, not regular programming. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you play familiar music or new music. The listeners don’t want music at all—they want information.
Second, if a radio station does play music in between news reports about the event or disaster, previous research suggests that the music should be familiar since most listeners tend to prefer to listen to music they know.
Third, if the event or disaster is significant enough, I don’t think it really makes any difference what type of music a radio station plays. The listeners will be focused on the problem, not listening to entertaining music.
Discussion Topics (Tidbits)
Doc: I may be wrong, but from what I have learned, listeners like to hear little tidbits of information they can use or things they can participate in, like trivia questions or contests. With that in mind, I usually give a few tidbits of information during my show. The problem is that I'm running out of things to talk about. Any ideas? - Anonymous
Anon: First, you are correct in saying that listeners like to hear little "tidbits" (as you call them) of information. I have seen this in research studies for several decades. While most listeners don't participate in contests, many do like to guess things like trivia questions, or what was the first, or the best, and so on. This is true for listeners in all formats.
So, here are a few Internet searches I set up for you to find tidbits for your show. I think these should keep you busy for a while.
Who was the first?
Distance between Coordinates
First off, your column is the epitome of high-quality H20! Now to my question…
Is there a place on the Internet where I can measure the distance between two coordinates? I want to measure the distance between two transmitters and all I have are their coordinates. Is there anywhere to do this? - Anonymous
Anon: The epitome of high-quality H20? I’m not really sure what that means, but thanks. I’m glad you enjoy the column.
Yes there is a site that will help you find the distance between two coordinates. Go to Indo.com. When you get there, look under the world globe for this sentence: Various query formats are allowed; for example:
Click on the “query formats” and it will take you to the page where you can enter coordinates.
Direct Mail Lists
Hey Doc: A quick question about creating mailing lists for direct mail marketing. The Zips we want to send to include our station's target demo in our own hot Zips, plus the hot Zips of our direct competitor.
For the most effective campaign, should we look at Zips that simply have the highest number of diary returns, or do we drill deeper and send to the Zips that have the highest AQH listening to our station and our competitor's? Much thanks. Keep up the great work! - Anonymous
Anon: Advertising of any kind is not an exact science. No one knows when people will make a decision to buy something, try something, or to listen to a radio station. At best, most advertising is a crap shoot—messages are put out with hopes that they will hit the right people.
The approach of marketing to “hot” Zips has gone on for many years. The idea is to market to the Zips that have high diary returns or mentions for a particular radio station. The problem is that the hot Zips in the last book may not be the hot Zips in the next book.
That doesn’t mean the approach is useless. However, I always suggest that you look at several Arbitron books and compute averages for the Zip Codes. Over time, there may be some validity to concentrating on hot Zips, but you need to look at several books, not just one, to see if there is a pattern.
OK, with that said, I’ll add this: I assume you have a limited marketing budget, so you’re probably trying to use the money in the most effective way. That’s OK and there is no problem with that. However, since advertising plans can never be exact, if you can, it’s best to spread out your marketing so you don’t miss some potential listeners. See what I mean? What happens if you focus on only a few hot Zips, but others turn out to be “hot” in the next book?
Hi Doc. Great column! As a DJ, what questions should I ask myself to ensure that I’m performing well especially during my shift? Thanks for the support. - Anonymous
Anon: I’m glad you enjoy the column. Thanks. Instead of listing questions you should ask yourself, I’ll try to summarize some of the main points listeners discuss when they talk about DJs—kind of like a “DJ Code of Performance.” These are things I have heard and seen in research projects during the past 20+ years.
Address your target audience. Everything you say should relate to the average person in your audience.
Talk TO your listeners, not AT them. Your show is for them, not for you, so use language they understand and talk about things they are interested in. If your listeners are adults, talk to them as adults, not children.
Don’t assume today’s listeners heard you yesterday or the day before. If you refer to something that happened in the past, be sure to explain the situation to listeners who weren’t in the audience then. If you don’t, you’ll lose them.
Address new listeners every day. An unknown number of new listeners tune into your show every day. They need answers to things like: Who are you? Who are the other voices that appear on your show? What type of radio station is this? How often do you give the weather, traffic, etc.? How much music do you play? What kind of music? New listeners are evaluating you and the radio station every day. Don’t neglect them. You need to sell yourself and your radio station so these new people will stay today and come back tomorrow.
Address your regular listeners every day. Your regular listeners know your routine and they depend on your consistency, but don’t take them for granted. Many listeners often say that most DJs don’t thank them for tuning in. Thank them. Listeners grant you their time. Make sure their time is invested well.
Speak clearly and don’t rush. Keep in mind that most of your listeners are involved in other activities while listening to you, so make sure that you give them an opportunity to understand what you’re saying. Listeners often complain that DJs “mumble,” “talk too fast,” and “include too much information in one or two sentences.” You are a professional communicator—don’t make amateur mistakes by speaking too quickly or unclearly.
Unconditional human regard. Accept your listeners for what they are and don’t criticize them for what they aren’t. This is especially true if you take listener phone calls.
Be yourself. Listeners say they don’t like DJs who TRY to be funny, or TRY to be controversial. Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself.
Admit your mistakes. Listeners know you’re human and don’t expect perfection. If you mispronounce something, or mess something up, admit it.
Have fun. Your listeners know if you enjoy your job, and if you do, they will share in your enjoyment.
I’m sure I could think of a few more if pressed, but those are the things that come to mind right now.
DJ Basics—Talk Radio?
I just reviewed the DJ advice. Well how about talk radio? What are ten things or so that will make for a good show? I ask this because I think it is completely different then being a DJ, although there may be some similarities. Thanks Doc! - Anonymous
Anon: The same 10 items relate to anyone on the air—jocks, talk show hosts, or anyone else. Putting on a good show for a music radio station DJ is no different than putting on a good show for a Talk or News/Talk radio station host. The only difference is that one person plays music and the other person doesn't.
A talk show host's "music" is the verbal content (from the host or guests). Each time a talk show host or a guest says something, the person is "playing a song" (so to speak)—and the "song" must be good.
DJ Evaluation of Performance
Hi Doc: Could you give us your
ideas on how to conduct a DJ evaluation survey on our listeners? What are the
important questions we should ask and how do we score the answers? What proofs
should we present to the DJs showing the impartiality of the survey? We look
forward to your kind wisdom on this project. Thanks a lot. - DJM
DJM: The best way to evaluate your DJs is to first find out what your listeners think are the important characteristics of a successful/good DJ. When you develop that list, you can then have your listeners rate your jocks on those items. I have been using this process for about 30 years and it works great for DJs and Talk Show hosts.
This is what you need to do . . .
Develop a list of 10-15 characteristics of good DJs. Things like "Good voice," "Relates to the listeners," "Funny," and so on. Ask the respondents in your survey to rate the Importance of each item using a 1-10 scale, where the higher the number, the more important the item is to them. (Note: The question would go something like this . . . "How important is it to you that a DJ has/is . . .")
Next, have the respondents rate your DJs on the same items. Use another 1-10 scale, where "1" means Poor, "10" means Excellent, and 2 through 9 are in-between.
You can then compare your DJs' scores to the Importance Scores in step 1.
The process is impartial because the listeners determine the importance of the elements. By the way, if you don't know which elements to include, you should do a few focus groups to find out what the listeners think are important characteristics. If you can't do focus groups, then see if you can get help from a researcher or a few friends at other radio stations who may have used this process.
DJ in Chicago (Warning: This is not a "G" rated answer.)
I was a teenager in the 1960s and lived in northern Indiana. I always listened to WLS-AM. I remember that there was a DJ on WLS, I think, who was fired for telling a dirty joke about baseball. Do you know what I'm talking about? – Edie
Edie: I hope I don't get in any trouble with anyone for answering this, but it's public knowledge as far as I know. I apologize in advance to anyone who may be offended.
I was a teenager in the 1960s too and grew up in a western suburb of Chicago. I used to listen to WLS-AM too, and I believe the incident you are talking about involved a DJ named Dick Biondi (I think he's still on a station in the Chicago area—I could be wrong about that).
As I recall—I could have the actual details wrong since I'm relying on my memory—Mr. Biondi did nights on WLS. One night, and I can actually remember hearing this, Mr. Biondi said something like, "The White Sox (baseball team) are starting a new rule at Comiskey Park. From now on, the men will kiss the women on the strikes and the women will kiss the men on the balls." I think (memory again) that the station immediately went to a commercial and Mr. Biondi wasn't there when the commercial was over.
How times have changed! On some of the morning shows I hear now, Mr. Biondi's joke wouldn't even be told—it's too "tame."
Your question got me to think about radio DJs of today. I wonder how many of today's teens will remember the DJs they grew up with? I wonder if today's DJs have the impact on the lives of their listeners as they SEEM to have had in the 60s and 70s? I can't answer that because that demo for me is but a fleeting memory.
DJ Performance Evaluation
Doc: One of the most consistent ways to evaluate the performance of a radio DJ is on the basis of how the person has improved over a period of time in the context of air checks.
I also want to make sure that the audience ratings for that period are factored into the performance evaluation. However, since you say that ratings are a function of not one, but many factors, do you think it is a wise thing to include ratings numbers as one of the parameters of performance evaluation? If yes, how should I go about it?
If not, what is the best (objective) way to evaluate the performance of a radio DJ? Thanks. - Jock Doe
Jock Doe: You ask several questions, so I'll take them one at a time.
First paragraph. You say that air checks are one of the most "consistent ways to evaluate the performance of a radio DJ." I understand the idea of evaluating air checks, but I don't understand what you mean with the word "consistent." If you use some type of objective scaling system, such as a 1-10 scale on several items (voice quality, diction, or whatever), where anyone would give the same ratings, then that would be consistent. If you don't use some type of rating system, then I don't understand how the evaluation could be consistent. How do you compare one air check to another?
Second paragraph. I think audience ratings should be included in a DJ/host evaluation, and should be part of a linear combination of items (several items added together to produce a "final" score or rating), but there are a few things you need to understand: (1) You are correct in saying that audience ratings are a function of many things. One of these "things" is error. With that in mind, then, if you plan to include audience ratings from Arbitron or any other source in your evaluation, then you should convert the ratings to Z-scores.
As I have mentioned many times in this column, it isn't fair to DJs/Hosts or anyone else to use raw Arbitron numbers when trying to determine if a person's performance has gone up or down. For example, a jock/host may have a 3.5 share in one book and a 3.1 share in the next book. Most people would probably say that the jock or host's performance went down, but that may not be the case because of sampling error. It may be that the 3.1 share is actually higher than the 3.5 share.
Third paragraph. What is the best (objective) way to evaluate the performance of a radio DJ? The best way I have found during the past 30+ years of conducting radio research is to ask your listeners to rate the importance of a variety of elements and use the important elements as the basis for your evaluations.
You first ask listeners to rate several items on a 1-10 scale. That will tell you what's important to them. You then take the highest rated elements and use them to develop a list of items to rate your DJs or hosts. It doesn't make a lot of sense to rate your DJs/hosts only on what you think is important — it's also important to get information from your listeners. You are the expert, and there is nothing wrong with evaluating people on your list of items, but you need a second set of opinions from the listeners because they give you the ratings. Find out what they want, give it to them, and tell them that you gave it to them.
DJ Research Methodology
Hey Doc: I have been doing some research on research methodologies and statistical analysis so we can recalibrate our programming that will fit our listeners’ preferences. Is there any freeware programs that can measure DJs’ performances and methods I can use in collating information that will help us improve our programming? And, for a side question, how many people should be surveyed that would be more or less representative of 8 million possible radio listeners? What would be the rule of thumb? - Big Dr. Wimmer Fan
BDWF: Hey, I have one fan! Thanks. I will alert my wife. There may be something out there, but I don’t know of any freeware that will help you. I think I understand what you’re looking for, and the only way I know to get your answers is with a customized questionnaire.
The approach you need to follow is to find out what your listeners think is important about DJs and the other programming elements. The second step is to have the respondents rate these same elements in reference to your radio station.
Sample size with 8 million listeners? Sampling error in your market is the same as in a market with 1,000 listeners. The sample size you select depends on the amount of sampling error you are willing to accept. In most situations, a sample of 400 is acceptable. This will give you a sample error of about ±4.9%.
If you want to look at sampling error for different sample sizes, go to my business website and click on the links for sampling error calculators.
DJ Research Methodology - Quantitative Analysis
Hi Doc: Just wondering if there are ways of quantifying a DJ’s performance based on standard rules of programming and direct feedback? Are there any particular fields or guidelines a PD should use to numerically evaluate a persons performance? - Anonymous
Anon: This is déjŕ vu. I just answered the same type of question about a week ago, but that’s OK.
I don’t know of any publicly available rating scales for DJs. I have been using a scale I developed for about 20 years, but it’s proprietary information I’m sure other research companies have something similar.
The “particular fields or guidelines” to use to evaluate a DJ are up to you. What is important? Voice? Attention to the target audience? Relevant talk? Decide what you think is important and then rate each of these elements. I suggest that you use a 10-point scale. To make it easy, it’s good to have 10 rating elements, which produces a perfect score of 100.
Hello Doc: Based on your
experience, and setting aside content, which announcer voice characteristics
attract the most number of male/female listeners? Could you give us links to
samples of these kinds of voices or mention popular radio celebrities we should
observe? Thanks for the favor. - Mike
Mike: Based on a few decades of research related to DJ/announcers' voice characteristics, I can't answer your question as you have it worded. The problem is that you say, " . . . setting aside content."
What's the problem? If you ask listeners to describe a good radio (or TV) voice, they will usually include things like, "pleasant sounding," "non-nasal," "no stuttering," and a bunch more. That's what they say.
But I have encountered hundreds of situations where a DJ/announcer isn't pleasant sounding, is nasal, and maybe even stutters, and the listeners rate the person very highly. Why? Because of what the person says is more important than how the person sounds. Or, to put it another way, the content of the message is more important than how the message is delivered.
For example, consumer advocate Clark Howard (I don't think he'll mind me mentioning him since I did research for him in the past) doesn't have a great sounding voice. Most radio people would probably say his voice is too high and/or nasal. But the listeners love the guy and rarely criticize his voice. The content wins.
Another good example is John Madden, former Raider's coach and current color analyst for football. He says, "Ya know" at least once in virtually every sentence he ever utters, yet he's continually rated as one of the best football announcers on TV.
Now, I'm sure there are some voice characteristics that listeners may not tolerate, but the only way to find out is to test the personality whose voice quality may be questioned. I don't know of any Master List of Voice Characteristics that all radio/TV personalities must possess—it's individual, and each individual must be tested.
DJ - What’s in a Name?
Does it really make a difference for an audience if the talent has been in the market for 30 years? Does a talent who has been in NYC, for instance (the market I am from), have to be older than dirt to be effective? Also, does research show that most people don't even recognize most of the talents? Finally, what is the best way to become well known in a market while not getting as much airtime as other people?
Oh yeah, do listeners who like Classic Rock really want to hear about golf and the stock market all the time? - Zach
Zach: During my past 25+ years of radio research, I have found that the importance of on-air talent is an enigma. By that I mean, I have found that the importance of on-air people increases as their talent and skill increases. In other words, if a radio station has on-air people who sound terrible, don’t relate to the listeners, and are not entertaining, the listeners will say that jocks (and other on-air people) aren’t important to them.
However, if a radio station has on-air people who relate to their audience, talk TO them not AT them, and make listeners (not themselves) their focus, listeners will say that on-air people are important to them in their enjoyment of the radio station.
See what I mean? By virtue of the quality of the talent they hire, radio stations can influence the importance of on-air people in the enjoyment of the radio station.
Now, in reference to the talent who has been in the market for 30 years…A person like this, particularly if he/she is good (see above), can be a great asset to a radio station. Good talent can create interest in a radio station and they can pull listeners along with them if they go to another radio station.
You must keep in mind that most human beings are very consistent in their behavior and most are very comfortable listening to (or watching on TV) the same talent day after day. Most listeners like to tune to their favorite radio station(s) and hear the same voices every day. A person with 30 years of experience in the market (if good) is a benefit for any radio station.
Next…what it the best way to become well known if you don’t have a lot of airtime? In addition to being good on the air (relate to listeners, etc.), it’s usually a good idea to make public appearances at local events. Let the listeners get to know you on and off the air.
Finally, do listeners who like Classic Rock really want to hear about golf and the stock market all the time? I know enough about listeners to say, “I don’t know.” The only way to answer your question is to ask the listeners. Don’t attach your likes and dislikes to the listeners because you’ll probably be wrong. Ask the listeners and you’ll know if they want golf and stock market reports.
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