Research vs. Gut

I program an Oldies radio station in a medium market, and my GM has grown very concerned lately that we don’t play enough “variety.”  So he went through the top 100 songs of each year, found songs that we aren’t playing, and suggested that we add them into rotation.  First, I find that rather arbitrary, and second, I have a problem with playing songs in rotation that aren’t tested.  I don’t mind putting some titles into spice categories or using them in special features, but is there any logic in putting untested material into your power categories?  I have tried to argue my case, but have been told that sometimes you just have to go with your gut! - Anonymous


Anon:  The first thing that hit me when I read your question was, “Why is the GM involved in selecting music for the radio station?”  Next, I thought, “What does the GM mean by ‘variety’?”  And finally, I thought, “This GM needs to stay out of the programming department.”  So here are my comments . . .

  1. Excluding stopping by to say, “Hi,” GMs have no place in the programming department.  Kick his butt out of your office.  If you can’t do that, then listen to him, but don’t make any changes based on his perceptions.  He is a sample of one and that’s not valid.

  2. It’s OK for your GM to be concerned about a lack of variety, but he does not know if the listeners feel the same way.  This is a classic example of giving people what someone thinks they need, not what they want.  Your GM is not qualified to make programming decisions.  Only the listeners are qualified to say if your radio station doesn’t have enough variety.

  3. What is variety?  Listeners define variety in several ways—too many songs by the same artists, too many songs from the same era, too many songs with the same tempo, and not enough songs on the playlist (meaning that the radio station repeats songs too often).  Which of these definitions is your GM talking about?  Not enough variety in your GM’s perception may not be shared by the listeners.

  4. In my opinion, if someone says, “Use your gut feelings” to make a decision, it is a sign of respect to the person on the receiving end because it means that the person has experience in the area and should rely on that experience.  However, it isn’t a good idea to use gut feelings alone to select music.  It’s not a good idea because your music IS the radio station—it IS the product.  And when it comes to the product, it’s best to leave the music judgments to the people who listen to the radio station and can fill out an Arbitron diary. By the way, I’m not saying that you should follow music test data to the letter.  I don’t believe that.  What I am saying is that you should ask the listeners what they like and don’t like and then use your experience (gut feelings) to make decisions about playing the music.

  5. No, there is no logic to playing untested music.  I would bet almost anything that when your GM told you to rely on your gut feelings, he was REALLY saying, “I don’t want to spend money for a music test.”  There is no logic to that either because, as I said, the music IS your radio station and it doesn’t make sense to guess what the listeners want to hear.  In addition, there is no logic in taking the top 100 songs from each year.  There are many songs outside the top 100 that listeners like to hear.

In reference to everything I have seen and heard in radio, your philosophy about not wanting to play untested songs in on the mark.  You are correct.  Your GM is wrong.  Your GM should worry about GM things, not programming things.


Now, I would have been on your GM’s side if he would have said something like, “It sounds like we play the same songs too often, let’s do a research study to find out what our listeners think.”  That approach is the sign of a good manager.

Respondent Types - Callout

Yo Doc, I noticed Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” got so-so results in R&R’s CHR callout survey.  Also, in the CHR section, R&R prints’s results.  Kylie scores much better in’s list among the same demos that it scores poorly in among R&R’s callout.


Putting aside your contention that one can’t know if a respondent really is who they say they are, is there a difference in the types of people who would respond to phone research vs. Internet research?


On a semi-related topic, is there a difference in the type of people who respond to phone ratings questions vs. the diary method?  I vaguely remember Accutrack or Birch (or somebody) doing ratings surveys over the phone and the results were quite different from Arbitron’s.  In many instances, younger sounding/targeting radio stations did better in non-Arbitron ratings.  The “it seems like” assumption at the time was that more kids/youth will respond to a phone survey than an adult.  Your thoughts? - Anonymous


Anon:  Yo to you too.  I have never seen a research study that compares respondents who participate in telephone research and Internet research.  It may exist somewhere, but I haven’t seen it.  It would be a great study to conduct, but it won’t happen in the radio industry because no one wants to pay for something like this.


However, from previous research is sociology and psychology, my guess is that respondents who participate in these types of research are pretty much the same because people who participate in any research tend to be more outgoing, more opinionated, more involved in community activities, and more socially aware than those who do not participate.


I need to have specific information about how both R & R and conduct their research to provide you with a more specific answer, but there are several reasons why the two studies may report different results.  Some of the reasons include:

Without knowing this information (and more), you can’t say that “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” performs better in one music rating procedure.  You don’t know that.  R & R’s rating is what IT IS and rtm’s rating is what IT IS.  Case closed.  The only way to compare the two ratings is to convert the data to Z-scores, and I know you didn’t want to hear that.


The problem is that you may be comparing apples to oranges here because of the different methodologies and you can’t do that.  The two studies may be completely different in terms of sampling, rating scale, and so on.  Comparisons between the two studies are meaningless.


You also ask if there is a difference in the types of people who respond to telephone ratings and the diary method.  From what I have seen, you are correct in saying that younger people are more likely to participate in telephone surveys than they are to participate in diary-based surveys—and that (as you mention) was the main reason why Accutrack and Birch (two defunct radio ratings services) reported results different from Arbitron (radio stations targeted to younger people performed better in Accutrack and Birch).


Your question is excellent and I would bet $1.00 that most people who review the two music ratings reports compare the results and it’s something they shouldn’t do.

Resting Songs vs. Big Rotation

Hi Doc! I have another question for you.  It seems common practice for some radio stations to have a relatively small playlist that is rotated heavily.  The songs are put into “rest” as soon as they burn out, and are maybe put back into rotation later (after several months).


I talked to someone at a radio station doing this.  They not only replace the current songs by new currents over time, but also do this with older songs.  The reason given for that was that it is good to rest a song for a few months because the listeners get tired of it after having heard it about 5 times in the course of some weeks (which would equate, an estimate of mine, 50 plays?).


However, I don’t buy that.  I think it would be better to keep all those songs in the rotation if they are to be re-added later anyway and generally keep the rotation longer, so that a given song would be only heard 5 times by that listener over a course of some months, not weeks, and thus probably won’t burn.


My questions are:

  1. Does your research support the “resting” of songs, or is it indeed better to keep them all in rotation?

  2. If a song is rested for some months, does the burn percentage actually go down? And, doesn’t the familiarity percentage also go down?  Do you have any average numbers how much it goes down over the course of, say, 3 months?

Thanks. - Kurt from Austria

Kurt:  Hi to you too. I hope things are going well for you in Austria.  On to your questions…

  1. Yes, research shows that “resting” songs is a good idea.  This is documented by the fact that listeners tend to tune to another radio station or turn the radio off if a song comes on that they are tired of hearing (burned out on).  This situation is not unlike any other situation where a person becomes tired of something—a change is welcome.

  2. Yes, burn percentages go down if a song is rested.  Once again, this is verified in countless research studies, specifically music tests.  However, I do not have an average decline in burn percentage.  This varies by song and artist as well as the number of radio stations in a market that play the same song—when they play it and when they “rest” it.

Resume Question

Doc, thanks for the great work you do with the column daily!  It's a must-read every morning.  I need some help with my resume.  A few years ago, I accepted a job with one of the larger radio groups.  I stayed there for a few months.  I didn't leave on bad terms; the job just wasn't a fit for me.  I've since moved on and have added a few full & part-time positions in radio to my resume.  Am I obligated to still list this "old" job?  I still have it on my resume with a brief explanation of why I only stayed there for a short time.  In other words, do resumes have to list every industry-specific job you've held?  If so, how far back do you go?  In other words, when can I take this job off my resume?  I hope this question makes sense and I can't wait to hear your take on this.  Enjoy an iced tea! - Avid Reader

Avid: I'm glad you enjoy the column.  Thanks.


If you read some of the articles on the Internet about resumes, you'll see that there is no rule about how far back you should go with your employment history.  Many writers suggest 10 years, but there is no standard.


What you don't want to do is falsify anything on your resume, so here is an alternative:  You may choose to eliminate your short-lived job from your resume, but be prepared to discuss it if you're invited for an interview.  It sounds as though you would prefer to explain your reasons for leaving rather than having a brief comment on your resume, and that's the most logical approach to take.  Good luck.

Revolving Door Etiquette

Doc:  Just a simple question for you.  I try to follow the traditional "rule" of opening a door for a woman.  However, when it comes to a revolving door, who is supposed to go through first, the man or the woman? - Nick


Nick: I can remember learning this from my mother when I was very young and I would bet that there are very few guys who know the "rule."  In fact, when my wife and I encounter a revolving door and I go first, some people look at me as though I'm doing something wrong.  Not true . . .


If you follow traditional rules of etiquette in the United States, this is the only time when a man enters a door first.  So, in the case of a revolving door, the man should enter first so he can do the work of pushing the door—the woman follows after the door is already moving (she doesn't have to do any of the "work" involved with pushing the door).


There are hundreds of articles about this on the Internet—click here.


Doc:  A friend of mine told me about a new thing retailers will have on their products that gives off a radio signal so the products can be tracked.  Do you know anything about this? - Anonymous


Anon: I believe what your friend is talking about is Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID.  It's a transmitter about the size and thickness of a postage stamp.  It's similar to the Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) strip that retailers now use (the small magnetic strip that causes the detectors to squeak if you try to steal a product from the store), but the RFID is much more sophisticated.


In my opinion, I think RFID is probably one of the most versatile technologies ever invented and will not only revolutionize the retail field, but also many, many other things.  However, so I don't have to reinvent the information wheel, read this excellent article about RFID.

Rick Rolling

Doc: Have you ever used "Rick Rolling" in your column?  Just curious. - Anonymous


Anon: Hey, are you talkin' to me?  Do you know who you're talkin' to?  My goal in the column has always been to provide accurate information to people who have questions about almost anything.  I never thought this was a vehicle for spoofs or anything other than legitimate information.  So, no, I have never used Rick Rolling in this column (also spelled, "Rickrolling").


For anyone who needs further information on Rick Rolling, click here


OK, OK, OK.  I had to do that.  Sorry.


Now, for the real information about Rick Rolling, click here.


While Rick Rolling is an interesting phenomenon, I think there are a variety of approaches that could be used.  What about something called, Q-Rolling or Question Rolling and using this video?  On the other hand, if you would REALLY like to roll someone, use this video.  (Just a suggestion.)


There is a website devoted to Rick Rollingclick here, and there are thousands of good articles on the Internet about Rick Rolling.  Click on this link for a search.


Finally, if you want more information about the video, there is a good "Pop Up Video" on YouTube click here.

Riddles - Two Tough Questions

OK Doc, I bet I can stump you with these two questions.


Question 1: A man lives on the 10th floor of an apartment building.  Every day he takes the elevator down to the ground floor to go to work, but when he returns, he takes the elevator only to the 7th floor and walks up the stairs to reach his apartment on the 10th floor. He hates walking, so why does he do this?  Hint: On rainy days he takes the elevator to the 10th floor?


Question 2: A large wooden barn is completely empty except for a dead man hanging from the middle of the central rafter.  The rope around his neck is ten feet long and his feet are three feet off the ground.  The nearest wall is 20 feet away from the man.  It is impossible to climb up the walls or along the rafters.  The man hanged himself.  How did he do it? - Anonymous


Anon:  So what’s the bet?  What you have here are two examples of what are known as “lateral thinking” questions or puzzles.  Each lateral thinking puzzle provides a few basic clues, but there is always something missing.  The answer comes from filling in the details.  Most lateral thinking questions have more than one answer, but one usually seems to be the most logical.


OK, you lost because here are the answers:


Question 1:  The man is a midget or dwarf and can only reach the button for the 7th floor.  On rainy days, he uses an umbrella to hit the 10th floor button.


Question 2:  The man hanged himself by stepping onto a block of ice, which has since melted.


Pay me.


Click Here for Additional R Questions


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