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 that).


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 significance.

  1. 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.

  2. 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 isn’t valid

  3. 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.

  4. 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…

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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. - Anonymous


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 GainedIf you can’t find the information in those two searches, then try the company report on Clear Channel’s Investment Page.

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. - Anonymous


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 approach.

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 lady? -Letterboy


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 more information.


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 another name.


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 Night)

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 clicking here.

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 = Republican.”


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 everything.”). 


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 Again

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" years?


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 definitions.

Lightest Element

What is the lightest element in the universe? - Kim

Kim: I assume you're referring to elements on the periodic table.  The answer is hydrogen.


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:

  1. Light travels at about 186,000 miles per second (about 670 million miles per hour).

  2. 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 is.)


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 Likert Pronunciation

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 (both univariate and 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 agreement.

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 you?”

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 have questions?”


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 him out.

By the way, we never again questioned Dr. Tucker’s pronunciation of a word or name.

Dr Wimmer:  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 worked out.

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 here:  What can I see?

Listener Advisory Board

Can you offer any advice and guidance on setting up a listener advisory board to probe likes and dislikes with your listeners? Appreciate it! - Anonymous


Anon: 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:


Click Here for Additional K-L Questions


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