Less is More
Hope you can help me out here,
Doc. With the Clear Channel, “Less is More” campaign in full effect, are Clear
Channel stations running fewer commercials than before, or have they simply cut
down on the overall time consumed by commercials? - Anonymous
Anon: From all the
information on the Internet, the “Less is More” campaign involves two
things: (1) Shorter stop sets; and (2) Shorter commercials.
This is one of the better
articles I found. Check it out.
“Less is More” - Again
Hi. I have a question about a
story that appears in the AllAccess news section. The report says:
“Clear Channel is declaring
early ratings success with its ‘Less is More’ initiative, saying that it saw a
6% 12+ share increase on a weighted basis in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago
for the Winter book and strong upward movement for 12 of its 22 stations in the
three markets. The ratings information is being offered to counter the
perception arising from the tepid response to the clutter-cutting initiative
from advertisers thus far.”
My question is: How does Clear
Channel know that this is true? Could the ratings increases be caused by
something else? - Anonymous
Anon: Hey, good question,
and glad to see that you’re thinking beyond the headlines (or something like
Before I get to your answer, I need
to say that the only information I have is what appears in the news story. I
don’t know what type of analysis Clear Channel did to arrive at their
conclusion. I also don’t know what they mean by “…a 6% 12+ share increase on a
weighted basis…” I have no idea what “a weighted basis” means. Weighted how?
Weighted on what? I don’t know.
OK, with that disclaimer, let’s
take a look at the reliability and validity of the news story.
Yes, the ratings increases can be
caused by one variable or several variables, but I have several questions about
the report. The list below is not organized in any specific order of
If the Winter ‘05 Arbitron
numbers were compared to the Winter ‘04 numbers, then there is a fair
comparison (at least) with the basic numbers. However, if the Winter ‘05 book
was compared to the Fall ‘04 book (the book before the Winter ’05 book), then
there is a problem. It isn’t valid or reliable to compare one book to
the book immediately preceding it—Summer to Spring, Fall to Summer, etc—to
determine if a radio station’s numbers are up, down, or the same.
In order to make a valid
comparison, the Winter ’05 book should be compared to the Winter ’04 book. I
don’t know if this was done. If it wasn’t, then the reported ratings increase
Even if the book comparisons are
valid, a 6% increase in 12+ numbers is probably not significant if sampling
error is considered. I don’t know the sample sizes used in the markets
reported, by my guess is that the sampling error is probably at least 5%, and
probably higher. In other words, it’s entirely possible that the stations
didn’t increase at all. They may have stayed the same or even declined in the
ratings. I don’t have enough information about the sampling errors related to
the markets to know if a 6% increase is significant.
Since there is no information in
the report about how the study was conducted, I have no idea if Clear Channel
controlled for all of the intervening variables that may have caused the
increase. What does that mean? Lemme tell ya…
A radio station’s Arbitron
numbers are a function of several dozens variables, and maybe more. In order
for Clear Channel to say that the “Less is More” campaign was the cause for
their radio station increases, they would have to control every other variable
that may have contributed to the increase.
The problem here is that it’s
virtually impossible to do that. Clear Channel would have to eliminate the
affect of any other change they made on their radio stations, and they would
also have to eliminate the affect of any changes made by any other radio
stations in the markets. Then there is the affect of contests, any type of
external or internal station promotion, signal problems, weather problems, and
on and on an on. ALL of these variables would have to be controlled in
order to state that the “Less is More” campaign caused increases.
Let me repeat that…in order for
Clear Channel to say that their “Less is More” campaign is the cause of
the ratings increases, they would have to control for (eliminate the influence
of) any other variable that may have contributed to the increase (also called
intervening or confounding variables). When, and only when, the multitude of
other potentially influential variables are controlled, can Clear Channel say
that the “Less is More” campaign was the cause of the increase.
If Clear Channel did not control
these other confounding variables, then the report about the increase in
ratings is meaningless. For all I know, the increase could have been caused
by a coding error by Arbitron personnel. I don’t know.
The bottom lines are these:
It isn’t valid to look at a radio
station’s performance in the Arbitron Winter ’05 book and compare those numbers
to the Fall ’04 book. If that is what was done for the “Less is More” study,
then the results aren’t valid.
It isn’t valid to look only at one
variable and say that variable alone was the cause of an increase or
decrease in Arbitron numbers. There are too many variables that could account
for the change, and these other variables must be controlled in order to say
that the “Less is More” campaign caused the increase, as small as the
increase may be. And even then, the report should say something like, “There is
an indication that the “Less is More” campaign caused slight increases in
radio station Arbitron numbers.
"Less is More" Comment”
I thought your analysis of the
Clear Channel statement was very interesting. It’s always good to get an
objective research take on statements such as they released, after all, isn't
that the basis of good research—objectivity?
I do have a question. Do you
know of any sites that I might be able to pull a list of large national
advertisers that have either pulled or greatly decreased their radio advertising
with Clear Channel? I realize this type of information is often confidential
but I thought perhaps there have been some statements released to that effect. -
Anon: Thanks. Yes, I agree
that objectivity is the foundation of all research. I didn’t say that Clear
Channel’s analysis is wrong because I don’t know what type of research they did
to arrive at their conclusion. However, I know that it’s virtually impossible
to control every variable that may cause/create ratings increase or decrease, so
take that for what it’s worth.
Clear Channel is a public company
and you should be able to find just about anything you need about the company.
Public companies aren’t supposed to have secret information.
Anyway, I don’t have a lot of time
to read at the moment, so I set up a few searches for you that might produce the
information you’re looking for. Try these:
Advertisers Lost and
Advertisers Lost and/or Gained. If
you can’t find the information in those two searches, then try the company
report on Clear Channel’s
Less is More - Final
I've read some opinions that
show listeners respond to units and not spot length. This might suggest that 6
minutes of spots in an hour causes as much tune out at 12 minutes if both spot
loads were 12 units. Have you found this to be the case? I've noticed when I
listen to the radio casually, I listen to a couple minutes of spots without even
realizing it and switch to a station not playing spots once I catch myself. -
Anon: What I have found
over the years is that listeners don’t care if a spot is :15, :30, or :60. What
they do mind is a bunch of spots in one set. Like you, most people will listen
to a few commercials, but if there are too many in a row—more than 4 or 5—they
will switch to another radio station or turn the radio off.
In a variety of tests of listener
tolerance to radio commercials, the studies I have done show that more breaks
with fewer spots is preferred—regardless of age or format. In other words, the
long segments of music with long segments of spots is not the best
Letterman – Flower Lady
Dr. Wimmer: My wife and I
were watching Letterman last night and she commented, “Who is that lady that
they present flowers to at the end of each show?” I told her that I did
not know but the Research Doctor could find out. What's up with the flower
Letterboy: I have
never been able to make it to the end of a David Letterman Show program,
so I had to search the Internet for your answer. What I found is that the
flower lady thing is cloaked in secrecy for some reason—supposedly an inside
joke or gesture.
However, I did find that Alan
Kalter (the announcer) is the person who presents the flowers—reportedly to
Regina Lasko, David Letterman’s girlfriend. But I wasn’t satisfied, so I
continued my search. I found some amazing things about the show.
If you are a Letterman fan, I found
an incredible David
Letterman Fan Website that is maintained by David Yoder from Kansas
State University. Since he knows so much about the show, I figured he
would know the answer. I sent him your question and he responded:
Hi: I think this is
intentionally being kept a mystery. I see every episode, and can assure
you no on-air reference to this bit has been made by Dave or anyone else.
Numerous questions have been
posted to “alt.fan.letterman,” but no one has gotten a straight answer, even
from the most serious fans.
According to my show logs, this
[flowers] was first done on May 19, 2004. Since that time, my show logs list it
happening in all but two episodes. It may have been done then in those,
too, and I was looking away or forgot to record it.
Why is it done? I don't
have a clue. It's not funny. There's little discussion of it among the
fans. This is probably a disappointment to the writers. I think they
had the idea that it would become a big deal to figure out who she is, and why
they're doing it.
I'm sorry I can't help you with
Best wishes, DDY
Next, David Yoder suggested that I
write to another Letterman fan. I wrote to him (he asked that I didn’t use
his name) and he wrote back and said:
I'm not sure of her name.
I asked someone on the show, and he said one name, but then someone in the
Letterman newsgroup said she asked someone else on the show, and she was given
As to why it is done…All I know
is from where: it's from some British talk show that does the same thing, but I
don't have the name of the show.
OK, so there ya go. I can’t
find anyone (yet) who knows the answer to your question. Sorry it took so
long for an answer, but I had to wait for emails.
Liar (Three Dog
Doc: Do you know if any Oldies
radio stations play the song, "Liar," by Three Dog Night? - Anonymous
Anon: Hmm. I'm not sure, and the only way to find out is to
contact all of them. My guess is that some would play the song since it was so
popular in 1970. For those who don't know the song, you can listen to by
I haven't thought about that song
in a while, but your question reminded me of this painting I saw on the Internet
by Paul Agule:
(Look at the painting and turn your
head slightly to the right.)
Liberal Talk Radio
Someone on the net talk/sports
board asked why there were so few liberal talk shows. I tried to reply to the
best of my knowledge, but I was wondering if there was any research that you
were aware of that would explain why conservative talk seems to be the only way
to go. In addition, if you have any personal opinion, I’d love to hear it.
Thanks. - Jerry
Jerry: I thought a
long time about your question before I started to type my answer. The
problem I have relates to the definitions of the words “liberal” and
“conservative.” Yes, I know what the terms mean in a generic sense, but I
have yet to hear an explanation in my lifetime that clearly and unequivocally
defines the terms—something beyond “liberal = Democrat” and “conservative =
A second problem relates to
stringent characteristics many people associate with the words liberal/Democrat
and conservative/Republican. For example, some people say, “He/she is a
Republican” (ostensibly meaning “conservative”), or “He/she is a Democrat
(ostensibly meaning “liberal’).
Regardless of what a person is
called, the word is used to describe the person’s entire
behavior/beliefs/judgments/etc. as is there is precise and exact characteristics
of a person who is labeled as such. It’s as if there is a “10
Commandments” for liberal/Democrat and conservative/Republican behavior, and
which ever group a person is associate with is, depending on a person’s
perspective, completely and totally wrong or completely and totally right.
That doesn’t make sense to me.
I have a problem believing that any
person or group can be completely and totally right or wrong. People and
groups are not perfect, yet the labels “conservative/Republican” and
“liberal/Democrat” carry with them, for many people, an implied complete
perfection, or implied complete imperfection. I don’t buy that.
OK, with that, then, I’ll go to
your question about research. I can only discuss the research I have done.
I assume other research companies have also done similar work. Anyway, in
research about talk show hosts, I usually ask if the listeners prefer a liberal
or conservative host. I purposely do not define the terms to allow people
to attribute their own meanings to the words. In nearly every talk show
host study I have done (many dozens), there is usually a tie among the two
terms. That is, respondents (with their own definitions of the words) are
split about equally in their preference for liberal or conservative hosts.
So what? Well, the so what
comes down to this: The indications from the research I have conducted
suggest that the definitions of “conservative” and “liberal” are important to
people who make decisions about radio talk shows. Generally speaking…I’ll
repeat that…generally speaking…many people associate “conservative” with “safe”
or “non-controversial” and “liberal” with “unsafe” or “controversial.” (In
many markets, if not most of them, radio managers prefer to air a
non-controversial product. However, in some markets, such as Los Angeles,
many GMs and PDs want controversial hosts—“Hey, it’s LA. Let’s stir up
Because of the desire by so many
radio managers to have non-controversial (implied as conservative/Republican)
talk shows hosts, the managers tend to…tend to…seek hosts that fit
this requirement—hosts that won’t stir things up and cause problems with the
audience or advertisers.
I do have a personal opinion about
the situation, but it really doesn’t matter. Unlike many talk show hosts,
I don’t perceive everything in life from a political (Republican or Democratic)
perspective. Life is too short for such myopia. But hey, I’m only
one person and what do I know?
Liberal Talk - Revisited
Roger: I am a little confused by
your answer to me regarding Liberal vs. Conservative talk shows. I
understand where you are regarding labels. Yes, it is a world of gray
rather than black and white.
The part that I’m confused about
is what is safe and non-controversial. Is Rush, Savage, Hannity, O’Reilly et al.
non-controversial and therefore considered safe for a broadcaster to carry?
Are they safe because most talk show listeners agree with them? Is that
what you meant? - Jerry
Jerry: My comments
about controversy and liberal or conservative talk show hosts come from numerous
talk show host research projects and the subsequent discussions I have been
involved with over the years. Although the dictionary definition of
“liberal” is “open-minded,” when used in politics, “liberal” tends to be
associated with “left” (another ambiguous word) and left is usually associated
with “radical” or something similar.
On the other hand, the dictionary
definition of “conservative” is “traditional,” which, when used in politics, is
associated with “right” (equally ambiguous).
When decisions about hiring a talk
show host are made, many radio managers (not all) tend to feel more comfortable
with “traditional” or “right” rather than “left” or “radical.” (It doesn’t
matter that all these words are completely ambiguous.
You ask if non-controversial hosts
(conservative) are safe because most talk show listeners agree with them?
I’m not sure if that’s true, or if non-controversial hosts are more popular
because they are the only choice in many cases. See the difference?
If radio managers don’t want to
stir things up, they take a “safe” approach and hire conservative hosts.
If this approach is repeated enough, the opportunity to hear liberal talk show
hosts is reduced.
By the way, another reader wrote to
say that the New York Times has an article explaining that liberal radio
isn’t popular because it hasn’t succeeded financially (basically the same thing
I’m trying to explain). The article is located
here. I didn’t read it because it requires registering, and I
don’t agree with that approach.
Liberal Talk – Revisited
You’ve had stuff published about
liberal talk radio. Lately of course, folks like Bill Clinton say there’s
a conservative bias in the media. Peeps like Hannity and Rush were helped
to become famous by the perception of the media being liberally biased.
I’m young, so all I’ve known of
bias I learned in the Clinton years. During that time, complaints were
strong of a liberal bias in the press. Before Clinton, was there an equal
claim that the media were biased for conservatives during the Reagan/Bush "41"
What I’m asking is...is bias in
the eye of which ever party is out of power?
P.S. In college, our
“Ethics in Media” course had us study and pick apart local and national news
(TV, print, etc.) to look for bias. All three major networks tended to
give the left of center more favorable coverage than the group to the right.
(Ambiguous I know.). In fact, our liberal professor found glaring examples of
liberal bias that conservatives in the class overlooked. This was in 1996.
ABC was the most blatant, followed by CBS and then NBC. - Anonymous
Anon: Is bias in the
eye of which ever party is out of power? Sure. And bias is also in
the eye and ear of the beholder. What you may say is liberal, I may say is
conservative, and vice versa. Understand?
The character Forest Gump said,
“Stupid is as stupid does.” Taking that lead, I’ll say
“Bias/liberal/conservative is as bias/liberal/conservative does.” In other
words, if a person labeled (which I don’t understand) a liberal or conservative
does something…anything…then that “something” becomes liberal or conservative.
Searching for bias in the media in
your ethics class is also rather meaningless unless you and your class (and your
professor) used an operational definition of bias. Don’t take this
personally because you were the student and not the teacher, but to conclude
that “All three major networks tended to give the left of center more favorable
coverage than the group to the right” is just, well, simply meaningless.
What are the characteristics of something that is “left of center,” and “…to the
right.” What or where is the center? What is bias?
ABC was the most blatant? In
what? Unless I have operational definitions of all these terms, a
discussion about bias in the media is equal to discussions about aliens visiting
Albuquerque. I have seen many media bias studies and can’t recall any that
follow the principles of scientific research. The studies are based on
authority, intuition, and tenacity, and that doesn’t cut it.
The media may or may not be biased.
The media may or may not be neutral. I don’t know. But I do know
that in order to investigate the situation, I gots ta have some operational
is the lightest element in the universe? - Kim
Kim: I assume you're referring to elements on the periodic table. The answer is
One of my listeners called my
show and asked me about the “formula” to determine how far lightning is away
when it strikes. Can you help me out? - Mark
Mark: The “formula” is simple, but
remind your listener that it’s only an estimate. To estimate how far lightning
is away from you when you see it strike, you need to know two things:
Light travels at about 186,000
miles per second (about 670 million miles per hour).
In air, sound travels at about
1,088 feet per second (about 742 miles per hour).
You naturally see lightning before
you hear the thunder (actually a sonic boom) because of the differences in speed
(although you may see it and hear it almost simultaneously if the lightning
strikes very close, in which case you will probably be more interested in
changing your pants rather than trying to determine how far away the lightning
OK…here is what you do:
When you see lightning, count the
number of seconds it takes until you hear the thunder (use a watch or clock with
a second hand or count “one Mississippi…two Mississippi…” or “one and a two and
a three and a…” or which ever method you use to count seconds).
Each second you count translates to
about 1,088 feet (about 1/5 of a mile). So, for example, if you see lightning
and you hear the thunder 5 seconds later, the lightning is approximately 5,440
feet away, or 1.03 miles (divide 5,440 by 5,280—the number of feet in a mile).
If the sound of thunder comes 10
seconds after you see lightning, then you’re about 10,880 feet (2.06 miles) away
from the lightning. As indicated earlier, if you see lightning and hear thunder
at the same time, you’re in the wrong place.
Likert Scale - Dr. Rensis
Doc: I know many readers might
not be interested in this question, but it’s important to me and I would like
to know if you would help. I’m taking a research class now and the professor
has mentioned the Likert Scale (the 1-5 scale) many times, and we will be
studying it soon in class.
My question is how to pronounce Likert. I thought it was pronounced LICK-ert,
but my professor pronounces it as LIKE-ert. Do you know which
pronunciation is correct? I don’t want to say anything to him.
Thanks in advance. - Gerry
Gerry: Sure, I’ll be happy to help and I’ll do that by telling a short
story, but before I get to that, I need to provide a little background on the
Likert Scale for the readers who aren’t familiar with the measurement tool.
There are many types of rating scales used in all types of behavioral
research, including the mass media, but there are three that are used most
often: the 5-point scale, or Likert Scale, developed by
Dr. Rensis Likert (1903-1981) in 1932; the 7-point scale, or Semantic
Differential Scale, developed by
Osgood, Suci, and Tannenbaum in 1957; and the 10-point scale, which
seems to have appeared from outer space because it isn’t attributed to any
person or team of statisticians or researchers. (Anyone familiar with my
research knows that I prefer to use a 10-point rating scale, but I’ll save
that discussion for another time.)
OK, that’s a little background on rating scales, so it’s on to my short story
about how to pronounce Dr. Rensis Likert’s name.
I received my Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University (Ohio) in 1976.
One professor there was Dr. Ray Tucker, who was not only my professor for
several classes and independent studies, but he was also my program advisor
and my Dissertation director (both significant for a Ph.D.). Dr. Tucker,
who unfortunately passed away in 2007, was a genius in research and statistics
multivariate), and I attribute most of what I know about research and
statistics to Dr. Tucker.
Anyway, early in the quarter in one our research classes, we were going to
talk about Likert Scales. Dr. Tucker started the class and pronounced
the name as LICK-ert, and all of us in the class (there were only about 10
students since Ph.D. classes are very small) looked around at each other with
confused expressions “knowing” that it was pronounced LIKE-ert, not LICK-ert.
After Dr. Tucker said the name a few more times, he looked at us and said,
“What’s the problem?”
I said, “Dr. Tucker, it’s pronounced LIKE-ert, not LICK-ert.” He said,
“Do all of you think LIKE-ert is correct?” The other students nodded in
We were in a classroom that had a telephone with one of the (then) new types
of speakerphones attached to it -
like this. (Yes, I know it looks odd.)
After seeing all the Ph.D. students nod their heads in agreement about the
pronunciation of Likert, Dr. Tucker reached for the phone, pushed the
speakerphone button, and dialed a number. The conversation that took
place went something like this:
“Hello...Rensis here.” (WHAT? It was Dr. Rensis Likert! We were
stunned. One of the godfathers of behavioral research was on the other
end of the phone!)
Dr. Tucker: “Rensis. Ray Tucker here.”
Dr. Likert: “Hi, Ray. Nice to hear from you again. What can I do for
Dr. Tucker: “I’m in a Ph.D. class and we’re discussing the pronunciation
of your name.”
Dr. Likert: “Oh, I can imagine how that’s going. I assume you want me to
tell your students how my last name is pronounced.”
Dr. Tucker: “Yes, they need to hear it from you.”
Dr. Likert: “Students . . . I know Dr. Tucker knows the correct
pronunciation, but you probably don’t believe him. My last name is
pronounced LICK-ert, not LIKE-ert. Dr. Tucker is correct, so do any of you
Dr. Tucker: “Thanks Rensis. I don’t see any hands raised to ask
you a question. All the students are just looking at each other.”
Dr. Likert: “OK. Good bye for now, Ray. Rensis LICK-ert signing off.”
So . . . that’s a long story to give you your answer. Show this to your
professor and if he has any questions, tell him to call me. I’ll straighten
By the way, we never again questioned Dr. Tucker’s pronunciation of a word or
Here is an update for you. I printed your response and took it to my
professor who is usually in his office on Saturday. After he read what
you wrote, he said that although he doesn’t know you, he has heard of you and
will from now on pronounce Dr. Likert’s name as LICK-ert. Thanks for
your help in solving this problem. - Gerry
Gerry: You’re welcome, but the only thing I did was write what Dr.
Likert said, so he, in absentia, solved the problem, not me. I’m glad things
Link to Another Website
Hey, doc. I’m just learning
HTML (HyperText Markup Language). Every so often in your answers, you have a
link to another web page or site. What do you do in HTML to provide that link?
Does my question make sense? - Chuck
Chuck: Yes, your question makes
sense. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you ask me how to find
information about the planets and stars you can see in the sky. I’d suggest
that you go to a website www.space.com, in particular a page that shows
what you can see in the sky during the current month. I could show a link for
you to go to the site, or I could provide a link for you and say, “To go to the
web page, just click here:
What can I see?
To produce that link for What
can I see?, I included
this line in your answer: <a href=" http://www.space.com/spacewatch/sky_calendar.html
"><font color="#0000FF"><b>What can I see?
When you click on What can I
see?, your computer takes you to the site. Now, if I wanted the webpage
to open in a separate window, I would add target= “blank” just before
href. Try it
What can I see?
you offer any advice and guidance on setting up a listener advisory board to
probe likes and dislikes with your listeners? Appreciate it! - Anonymous
Your question is very broad. I don’t know what you want to do with these
people other than "probe likes and dislikes." As a start, here are
some things you’ll
need to answer:
many people do you want on the board?
will you recruit the people?
types of people will be on the board? What are there demographics?
long will each person be on the board?
will you replace them?
will you pay these people?
will analyze the data?
frequently will you ask them questions?
will you avoid competitors from being on the board.
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