I’m new to radio and don’t understand the references to P1s, P2s, etc. Can you define these terms for us non-programming types and explain their purpose and origin? Thanks. - Anonymous
Anon: I recall that Arbitron started the "P" (for "Preference") designations several years ago. The term P1 designates the radio station a person credits with the most quarter hours in an Arbitron diary; P2 designates the radio station a person credits with the second highest number of quarter hours in the diary, and so on. In other words, P1 means "most credited quarter hours," P2 means "second most credited quarter hours," and so on.
Now…it is important to note that not all of the people in a given "P" category are alike in reference to the amount of listening to a radio station. A listener’s P1 radio station is the station that receives the highest number of quarter hours, which may be hundreds of quarter hours or only a few. It is wrong to think that all listeners in a radio station’s P1 category listen the same amount to the radio station—they aren’t. A P1 could listen to a radio station 24 hours a day or maybe only 5 minutes a day.
Another problem is that a listener’s P1 radio station (according to Arbitron diary entries) may not be the person’s favorite radio station. A person may be "forced" to listen to a radio station at work or some other place, but the radio station may not be the person’s favorite station. For this reason, when conducting research, it’s best to use a screener that asks, "Which radio stations do you choose to listen to in a typical week?" and "Which radio station do you choose to listen to most often during a typical week?" (You could also ask, "Which radio station is your favorite?")
P1s and Other Businesses
Doc: I was just wondering if other industries outside of radio use the terms, "P1," and "phantom cume?" - Anonymous
Anon: Good question. But before I get to the answer, I think I should explain the terms for the readers who aren't familiar with them.
P1s and Other "Ps"
I answered a question about P1s a while ago, and this is what I said:
I recall that Arbitron started the "P" (for "Preference") designations several years ago. The term P1 designates the radio station a person credits with the most quarter hours in an Arbitron diary; P2 designates the radio station a person credits with the second highest number of quarter hours in the diary, and so on. In other words, P1 means "most credited quarter hours," P2 means "second most credited quarter hours," and so on.
It is important to note that not all of the people in a given "P" category are alike in reference to the amount of listening to a radio station. A listener's P1 radio station is the station that receives the highest number of quarter hours, which may be hundreds of quarter hours or only a few. It is wrong to think that all listeners in a radio station's P1 category listen the same amount to the radio station—they don't. A P1 could listen to a radio station 24 hours a day or maybe only 5 minutes a day.
Another problem is that a listener's P1 radio station (according to Arbitron diary entries) may not be the person's favorite radio station. A person may be "forced" to listen to a radio station at work or some other place, but the radio station may not be the person's favorite station. For this reason, when conducting research, it's best to use a screener that asks, "Which radio stations do you choose to listen to in a typical week?" and "Which radio station do you choose to listen to most often during a typical week?" (You could also ask, "Which radio station is your favorite?")
I also answered a question about phantom cume a while ago, and this is part of what I said:
Phantom cume is the number of listeners (usually shown in a percentage) who listen to a radio station, but fail to name it in an unaided listening question or in their Arbitron diaries. (Phantom cume can't be computed for Arbitron ratings because the sample is unknown.) However, in perceptual research, there are four things required to compute phantom cume:
1. Unaided cume (number of respondents).
2. Aided cume (number of respondents).
3. Subtract unaided cume from aided cume.
4. Divide additional listeners by the aided sample size. This is the phantom cume percent.
For example, assume that 30 respondents name WAAA in an unaided listening question ("During a typical week, which radio stations do you usually listen to?"). In an aided question ("During a typical week, do you usually listen to WAAA?"), assume that 50 respondents said "yes." WAAA picked up 20 listeners from the unaided question, and its phantom cume is 40% (20/50 = .40).
Phantom cume is essentially a lack of "top of mind" awareness, and when it comes to research and Arbitron ratings, it means lost credit for listening—earned credit that isn't counted.
Phantom cume can never be eliminated, but it can be reduced by call letter/moniker mentions on the air, and external advertising and promotion. Radio stations that don't pay attention to their phantom cume usually have percentages in the range of 20-40%. That's 20-40% lost listening credit. Radio stations that pay attention to phantom cume are usually in the single digit percentages. (Anything under 10% is great.)
Phantom cume will no longer be a concern in Arbitron when the Portable People Meters replace diaries. However, it will still be a factor in perceptual research.
Your Question . . .
OK, done with defining the terms. On to your question . . .
My experience in non-media research is limited to only a few hundred studies, so I can't claim to know everything that's going on in these areas. However, in my experience with non-media companies, I have found that most don't have an equivalent to P1 and phantom cume.
What I have done is apply these two terms to the companies I have worked with, such as P1 and P2 beer drinkers, P1 and P2 luggage users, and I have found that the decision makers are enthralled with the concepts and they look at their goals in different ways. In addition, I have also used a variation of radio (and TV's) cume-to-fan conversion for consumable products—things that don't last long and are replaced frequently, such food, batteries, and soft drinks. (Some of the non-media people I deal with use the term "cume-to-fan" conversion even though they're not in radio or TV. I think they just like the way it sounds—cume-to-fan candy bar buyers.)
Doc: I’m a little bit new to radio and have a question. A while ago, you mentioned that a radio station should not do all its research with P1s because the station will disappear from the ratings. Would you explain that in more detail, please? - Paul
Paul: A “little bit” new to radio? That's good and I’m glad to see that you’re asking questions because that’s how we learn everything. On to your question…
I think an example with hypothetical audience numbers may help you understand why radio stations shouldn’t conduct research (music tests, perceptual studies, focus groups) only with its P1s (fans…the people who listen most often to that radio station).
Let’s assume that you’re the PD for a Mainstream CHR radio station that targets Females 18-24. In your market, there are 100,000 females in this 18-24—your theoretical maximum audience, although we know in reality that some younger and some older listeners will tune in. But let’s stay with the 100,000.
Now, we know that the women in this group (or any other group) are not the same in every way—each woman has specific likes and dislikes. Oh, sure, they will share some characteristics, but for the most part, they are different from one another in a variety of ways, not just radio listening. In research terms, the difference among people (or things) is called variance. The females in your audience are similar in many ways and different in many ways—there is variance even among the similar group.
What evidence is there to prove that there is variance even among a group that is supposedly the same? One way to prove it is to look at Arbitron numbers. If there were no variance among the group of Females 18-24, then one or more radio stations would garner a 100 share with these listeners. But that doesn’t happen. In most markets, radio stations usually attract less than 10% of its target listeners. Why? Because of the variance that exists among people.
Now, don’t get the idea that variance is a bad thing. It isn’t. It’s just a fact of life that people are different even among a “similar” group. However, there are many times when there is an interest in reducing the amount of variance in a group so they that these people can be targeted for one reason or another. The way to reduce variance is to add restrictions (in research, these are called screener questions to “weed out” the unwanted people. In other words, although we may be interested in Females 18-24, we know that there are some women in this group that just don’t fit our expectations or goals.
For example, let’s take a look at something outside the radio field. Let’s say that we’re conducting a study to find out how many Females 18-24 prefer Snickers candy bars. We can eliminate variance among the people by using a few screener questions. Our data (using a sample of 100,000) may look something like this:):
|Eat candy of any type||90%||90,000|
|Eat chocolate candy bars||50%||36,000|
The data show that about 10% of the Females prefer Snickers candy bars (a 2 share about “chocolate candy bar eaters.”). So what? Well, the “so what” is that as we asked additional screener questions, we eliminated variance. When we finally get to “Prefer Snickers,” we have a small group of people who are very similar (not exact) to each other—not just in the area of chocolate candy, but in a variety of ways.
Now, we could ask the Snickers “P1s” a variety of questions about the candy bar and gather good data. However, the problem is that these women already prefer Snickers and they aren’t going to be good sources to find out if the bar can be improved and so on. So, while it’s good to have information from the Prefer Snickers fans (Snickers P1s), we also would like to expand the market. The only way to do that is to ask questions to the people above the Prefer Snickers line in the example above. Questions like: Why don’t you buy more Prefer Snickers bars? How can the bar be improved?
When we get that information, we can compare it to the data from Snickers P1s to see what changes can be made without upsetting the P1s. This wouldn’t be possible if we only did research with the Snickers P1s—these people already prefer the candy bar and aren’t interested in any changes (that they know about).
In other words, if our research continually used only Snickers P1s, we would probably never be able to expand the market to other people. You gots ta have information from other people.
Understand? This scenario relates to literally any consumer product or service, and it also relates to radio. If you conduct research only with a radio station’s P1s, the research is focused on a small group of people who are very similar in a variety of ways. This means that you won’t get the variance in opinions/habits/characteristics you need to expand your audience.
The problem of conducting research with only P1s isn’t the only problem in radio research. I have seen many examples of PDs and consultants designing questionnaires for morning shows and other dayparts that include incredibly restrictive screeners (Females 18-24, P1s who also listen to the competitor, and so on). That kind of screener is absolutely ridiculous, but I have seen even some of the most respected consultants do this. Not smart.
Listen to me now and believe me later: A radio station that conducts research only with its P1s will quickly fade away.
P2 Recruiting, Credit Cards, and Batteries
Is it realistic, feasible, and effective to recruit P2s for research on the air? Something along the lines of “If Hits FM isn’t your first choice when you listen to the radio, we want to learn more about what you listen to...” We’d offer some kind of incentive, and then take them through the normal screening process after they contacted us. I’m just trying to cut costs here and find a way around cold calling :-).
You know when you use your credit card at the gas pump? Why do you have to insert and remove it quickly? Who am I hurting if I swipe it at my own pace?
Why do people put batteries in the fridge or freezer? Does it really help them last longer or something? - Anonymous
Anon: Interesting questions. I’ll answer them in order:
Recruiting P2s: Conducting research requires paying attention to many things. One of these things is bias, which can happen via question wording, inflection of the interviewer’s voice, the research setting, and many other things.
There is nothing wrong with recruiting research respondents over the air. However, instead of limiting your message to P2s (“If Hits FM isn’t your first choice…”), I suggest that you word you statement to include any type of listener. When you screen the people, you can search for P2s. However, the more broadly written message will not create bias (you’re looking for only one type of person (P2s), but other listeners (P1s or other “Ps”) may call in because they want to be involved in your study—they may even lie to be involved.
If your listeners don’t know that you’re looking for P2s, you’ll get a better sample.
Gas Pump: When I first read this question, I thought I’d be able to find the answer on the Internet. No luck. Then I thought I’d be able to find the answer by calling petroleum companies. No luck again. In fact, I called three petroleum companies, and none knew the answer to your question.
OK, so the only way to answer your question was to conduct an experiment for you. I got in my car and went to three gas stations (Conoco, Phillips 66, and Shell). At each station, I first went in and asked the cashier your question. None of the three people knew the answer. In fact, all three said that no one had ever asked them that question before. So now what?
Well, the only way to find out what happens if you don’t remove your credit card quickly is to leave the card in the pump. And that’s what I did. But I did it in two different ways.
First, I inserted the card and immediately lifted the hose. The second approach was to insert the card and not lift the hose. In both cases, the message on the pump was the same. It said, “Please pay after fueling.” In other words, by leaving the card in the slot, the pump would not accept my credit card.
Hmm…another test. I inserted the card and lifted the hose. Then I removed the card (still holding the hose), and then inserted the card a second time and removed it quickly. A new message came up. It said, “See cashier for help.” (When I returned the hose to the cradle on the pump and lifted it again, the message was cleared and I could start from the beginning.)
OK. So what’s the deal. I can’t get an answer from anyone, but I think I have a clue. I believe the “Remove Quickly” notice is on the pump so customers won’t forget their credit card in the pump. This seems logical since the pump will not work if you leave the card in the slot. My guess is that the folks who designed the self-service pump tried to anticipate every possible error that customers could make. Leaving a credit card behind was probably on the top of the list.
So…I think that’s the answer. In order to make the pump operate, you must remove your credit card quickly. This eliminates the possibility that you will leave your card in the pump and drive away.
Cold Batteries: Several years ago, Consumer Reports tested if batteries last longer if they are refrigerated. After five years of testing, they found that chilled batteries had only slightly more power than batteries stored at room temperature. The increase in power was negligible and they concluded that storing batteries in the refrigerator was not worth the effort unless you live in a hot climate without air conditioning (heat and humidity are not good for batteries).
Paid for Research
Doc: I received an email the other day from a research company that said they would pay me for participating in studies. I think the name of the company is Paid Surveys Online or Online Paid Surveys. Do you know anything about this and is this something I should do to get some extra money? - Anonymous
Anon: I didn’t know anything about these companies, but I found that there are dozens of them on the Internet. One of them is PaidSurveysOnline. Did you notice at the bottom of the home page that you have to pay $34.95 to participate? Hmm. I also did a search for things related to the paid research sites, and found something that you might want to consider. I can’t say that I recommend you getting involved, but that’s your decision.
What’s the longest palindrome in the world? - Anonymous
Anon: A palindrome is a word or phrase that can be read forwards and backwards. One of the most famous is, "Madam, I'm Adam." According to several sources, Giles Selig Hales wrote the longest known English palindrome in 1980—supposedly consisting of 58,795 letters. However, I can’t find it anywhere.
You can find thousands of palindrome examples on the Internet. Go to any search engine and type in palindrome.
Since you seem to know just about everything :) I wanted to get your ideas on something that I have noticed. My parents (and people their age) don’t listen to new music, and don’t know anything about current artists. My question is this: At what point do people stop listening to new music and stick with the music they grew up with? I can’t imagine not listening to new artists and modern music. Any thoughts on this subject? - Jeff
Jeff. You ask a very interesting question, and one that has made me think a lot about how to answer it. By the way, I think a person’s ability to “know just about everything” is a function of being older, knowing some things, and knowing where to find the answers to things he/she doesn’t know. You’ll soon know just about everything too.
However, I think you already have a good start on knowing things because I believe part of the answer to your question is IN your question. Let me explain.
First, I need to say that my explanation here is not intended to apply to every single person on the planet. There are only a few things that relate to everyone, so my explanation here is a generalization of what the “average” person experiences. So don’t write back and say, “Well, I know someone who doesn’t fit your model.” I know that too.
For most people, the formative years of music appreciation fall somewhere between 13 and 22 years old. These are the years when people learn about themselves, have all sorts of new experiences, begin dating, go to high school, maybe go to college, and mature in countless ways. These 10 years (or so) are probably one of the most significant times in a person’s life when it comes to learning about relationships, abilities, needs, desires, and establishing a base for adulthood.
Music is part of this maturing process. I know there are some exceptions, but from my experiences with my friends and from the thousands of research projects I have conducted, I know that many people embrace music more during these “formative” years than at any other time in their life. Music during these years is as important as breathing. We listen at home, in the car with friends (“Oh, that’s my favorite song, turn it up!”), on dates, and in virtually every other situation. Music during these years becomes the music that defines us—we are that music and that music is us.
With several exceptions, music since the early 1900s has been generally defined by decades, and therefore, we tend to “define” ourselves by the decade during which we experienced our “formative” music years. Consider these basic descriptions (These are my descriptions and I know there are few who will agree with them, but I had to come up with something).
1940s: Big band
1950s: Big band/early rock
1960s: Variety of light to medium rock—Motown, R & B, protest songs, Beatles
1970s: Variety of medium to harder rock—bands, “classic rock,” disco, punk
1980s: Variety of uptempo light-to-medium rock by solo artists
1990s: Variety of medium to hard rock, dance, rap—concentration on beat
Today: Rap and hip-hop by people who wear baseball caps backwards and can’t keep their hands by their sides while they sing/talk
As I said, I don’t expect anyone to agree with those descriptions. The point is to demonstrate that we tend to associate most with the music from the decade of our formative years. If your parents grew up (the answer you stated in your question) in the 1960s, then that music is most important to them. The same goes if they grew up in the 70s or any other decade.
What I have learned is that most people tend to…tend to…favor their “own” decade of music and become displaced from new music as they grow older. My experience is that this “music displacement” first becomes apparent somewhere between the ages of 30 and 40. I think this is true because it is during these years that people begin to reflect more on their past—they still plan for the future, but they begin to think more about the “way things were.” When people enter this phase, there is little, if any, interest in new music because the best music WAS, not IS. And that is the place where your parents are and probably always will be.
This doesn’t mean that they are weird, behind the times, nerds, or anything else. It means that they like the music they grew up with and accept the fact that NEW music (I’m referring to Top 40 Pop) is for younger people. Why? Because most Top 40 Pop music is performed by young people. As we grow older, we identify less and less with the Top 40 Pop artists.
My grandparents didn’t identify much with Frank Sinatra. My parents didn’t identify much with the “long-haired” Beatles. I don’t identify much with Britney Spears and her clones. (Britney is younger than my youngest son for Pete’s sake, and in my eyes, she’s just a kid. I also don’t relate well to things like, “Oops! I did it again,” or “Boys.”) The fact that music appreciation is correlated to age is an important concept, and I would bet almost anything that at some point in the future, you will say the same thing about the (then) new music…”I don’t like it. It’s for younger people.”
My grandparents didn’t like my parents’ music. My parents didn’t like my music. I don’t like my sons’ music. And my sons won’t like their kids’ music. The beat goes on. And you will too.
As I said, these are broad generalizations. I’m sure you could find some 70 year-old people who absolutely love Britney Spears (“Isn’t she just the cutest little thing?”). But I think these people are the exception, not the rule. In addition, I’m sure there are many older people who like a few new songs, but their hearts are in their formative years.
Want proof? Ask this question to a variety of people of different ages: “Assume for a moment that you are going to spend a year on a deserted island that has no TV or radio. But you can take a CD or cassette that has 10 songs. Which songs would you take?” You will find that the majority of songs most people select are from their formative years. People in their 60s will mostly select songs from the 50s; people in their 50s will mostly select songs from the 60s; people in their 40s will mostly select songs from the 70s; people in their 30s will mostly select songs from the 80s; people in the 20s will mostly select songs from the 90s; and they young kids will mostly select songs by artists who are actually doing the “Hand Jive.” (Ask your parents or grandparents about that.)
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