Monday, November 29, 2010

Radio's Mantra for 2011

We're only a month away from welcoming 2011.  A new year always brings forward new hopes and dreams for a better year than the one we just finished.  While 2010 looks like it was better than 2009 or 2008 but we all know that our radio stations have a long ways to grow. While the list piles up with tons of needed progress on:

  • Growing in social media
  • Moving distribution channels into mobile media and the web
  • Remaking our rules to the reality of PPM 
  • Developing and adjusting products for the new Millennial Generation that will become the bigger than the boomers we've entertained for years.
  • Keeping our strong cume penetration and TSL in a sea of new competition. 
  • Building an even stronger local presence in the community.
  • Becoming Cool/Hip again.
  • Doing all of it with budgets that are probably smaller than we need to really do the job.
It's a daunting challenge.  It may seem like a simple thought but there is a thread that weaves through all of these challenges and if we can keep our focus on 3 linked mantras I bet we can make 2011 a huge year:  
  • EMBRACE YOUR AUDIENCE
  • EMBRACE THE MUSIC
  • EMBRACE  YOUR COMMUNITY
You may say 'hey we already do that.'  But, do you really? Or have you just been letting the music spin around in your music scheduling system where the computer just spits it out in the digital studio?  Have you just been ignoring much of the audience's needs and realities?  Have you taken the excuse of tight budgets and slim staffs to push community involvement to the side?  The great stations that gave radio it's strong position in the 80s and 90s completely embraced all of these key elements.  If we can do it again we can make a ton of progress on all those challenges on the checklist.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TheLast 8 Years in Rock Radio Listening Trends

Last week we took a look at the last 8 years of 12+ listening trends from Arbitron's 2010 Radio Today summary which runs through 2009.  Early next year we'll see the report that includes 2010 and the story for Rock formats will likely be trending down.

Over the 90s rock formats splintered into 5 groups - more than any other broad format group (AC, Country, Oldies, N/T, CHR, and Urban).  When we look at each individual group the graph takes some interesting turns:

The total shares for all of rock were fairly strong in 2003 and 2004 at just over a 13 share.  2005 to 2007 you can see a 10% dip down to the mid 11 share range and a recovery to the 2009 12.5 share in 2009.  Looking at the individual styles of rock:

Classic Rock - The leader with a pretty steady run ranging from a low of 4.5 in 2007 to the current high of 5.0.

Active Rock has also seen a pretty steady run with some pretty low shares hovering just below a 2 share in 2003 and 2004 and mounting a steady gain with peak years in 2008 and 2009.  

Alternative has been the losing format starting out with a 3 share and sinking to the 2 share range for the last 3 years.

AOR is still listed here but many of these stations play mostly Classic Rock and many have classified themselves as CR for sales purposes

AAA has a limited penetration in many markets hanging at the .9 share range till 2007 when it began to climb to it's current 1.2 share.  

In many ways this graph is looking more at history than current reality.

Classic Rock has enjoyed many gains from the bigger markets adopting PPM as well as an aging overall terrestrial audience during this period.  CR is a solid performer in the PPM system with familiar music, good at work penetration and many stations have a long standing brand.

Active Rock rose up in the last 3 years mostly on the back of a solid group of middle ground newer rock artists.  Nickleback, 3 Days Grace, Theory of a Deadman, Shinedown, and others built a sound that was aggressive, but still had the hooks to break over to CHR (in many casts), become big concert draws, and we even saw pop worlds like American Idol begin to look a bit more at performers with Rock backgrounds.

For the most part Active Rock held it's line and did not work with the more pop world rock from American Idol and as the newness of the middle ground bands began to wain it has moved more into a world that is clearly harder and more aggressive.   Godsmack, Disturbed, and other harder edge bands now lead the way in the format  This is music that will only show up on Active Rock and maybe some Alternative stations.  Over 2009 and 2010 this harder edge has taken over.  

In Alternative the spotlight on the Active Rock bands drew much of their attention or if they held back it cost them 18-40 male shares.  But, as the 2010 and 2011 shares emerge look for Alternative to start to really shine.  Alternative has started to sort out the indie rock world and we've seen a lot of artists emerge to gain the national spotlight.   Neon Trees, Phoenix, White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Black Keys, Mumford and Sons and more are starting out exclusively on Alternative and now crossing over to CHR and the national attention that will bring in more Alternative fans.  

Clearly we hit a fork in the road for Active Rock and Alternative in 2009 and 2010.  Active retreated into a much harder rock arena while Alternative seemed to go the other way.   If you look at the charts for both formats there was a lot more crossover from 2007 to 2008 than there is today.

The challenge in some markets where there really isn't an Alternative station on the dial is rather obvious.  There are also cases where the Active Rock or more current leaning AOR station could embrace some of the Alternative music?  If you are an uncontested Active Rock or AOR that does play currents -- do you bend and take on the bigger Alt titles?  It's a very tough call.  The harder rockers are very vocal and will broadcast their attitude clearly if you step out too far.  Will these formats and programmers end up being trapped by their core audience into a route that keeps them away from the spotlight music in rock?

While we may not see these trends in the graphs from the rock format listening trends they are there in all the other music popularity measures we have (sales, downloads, concerts, street buzz and crossover).  This will be a big challenge for 2011.  We already see a lot more new music activity in the Alternative camps than we see in Active Rock.  And there are lots of Alternative titles that many Active Rock programmers have hardly heard of rising in the charts.

There is also changes that will come about as the Millennials (currently 15-30 years old) evolve and become the biggest generation of potential radio listeners in the next couple of years.  You can read more about that in the Millennial series we did a few weeks back - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5.  Big questions to ponder in Rock as we head into 2011.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Format Shares from Arbitron's Radio Today 2010 Report

When you take a look at the overall 12 plus shares for Rock formats over the last 7 years (2003-2009) and compare it to the major format groups (not including religious or Hispanic) it's a pretty interesting story.  Overall it's fairly consistent with a dip in 2005-2007 and a pretty decent recovery in 2008 and 2009.  
Of course we can see News formats ramping up for the 2008 election and holding a lot of that share into 2009.   Country has been pretty steady around a 13 share and rising recently with the younger country artists shining.  AC has surged recently and the rise of Hot AC (which may include Adult/Pop CHR) as well as the surge from the PPM stations and Christmas music has impacted this format over the last 7 years.  Rock is pretty steady with a dip from 2005 to 2007, we will dive into these numbers next week with more details

CHR is starting to show the spike we all know will grow in 2010 with all the big pop acts dominating the charts and sales right now.   Oldies is also growing, but much of this is a shift from the old oldies formats to Classic Hits and Adult Hits.  Urban shows pretty steady numbers here - note that the Rhy/CHR shares are included in the CHR graph.

I suspect we will see some changes as the 2010 national format shares come out.  CHR will likely be hotter, Country could also gain, and News will grow with the mid-term election causing a stir.  Rock will probably see a downtrend and we'll explore some of the reasons in the next blog.

Monday, November 01, 2010

When Do They Listen?

This question pops up a lot for scheduling features, laying out contests, and for show prep (when to run that great bit or content).  Arbitron has resumed their Radio Today report and this graph shows clearly where the 12 plus audience is listening.  

Now this data is based on both diary and PPM data and only includes the markets that had PPM for the Fall 09 report.  We've had a number of PPM markets added over 2010 and there are differences in the listening patterns when we compare PPM and Diary results, but this graph does give you a good picture of where the important hours and dayparts are.    

Later in the week we'll take a deeper look at the Radio Today report from 2009 and dive into the individual formats.  So check back!!