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Brian Wright
Audience Development Group

Reading The Room




Often radio stations which have not conducted well orchestrated research on their listeners in a while, start relying on other non-normative audience information by talking with heavy, ultra loyal listeners. This can be very dangerous and certainly misleading.  It is this type of information that has caused many radio stations to make adjustments in their programming that were actually detrimental. 


One of the areas that programmers and managers rely on for information on their listeners is the telephone, both the business-line and the studio-line.  It is very important to understand that only a very small percentage of your cumulative audience ever calls your station for any reason.  Those who do are radio regulars who call many radio stations, or are ultra-heavy users of your station, listening 5-8 hours per day.  In either case, it would be very unwise to make any decisions about your station's direction based on those calls. The best that can happen is you will get a very distorted and misguided view of how average listeners perceive your radio station.


Features like the Top 9 at 9, New Music Faceoff, Text Whatís Next, etc... all require a phone response. Should we eliminate these types of shows because they are phone oriented?  No, because these phone calls are serving a different purpose and are solicited.  In these cases you are simply creating a listener-friendly & fun on-air environment, carrying forth the essence of intrigue and excitement... for a limited time.  With these shows, the power comes from the listenersí participation, and not necessarily from what the listener says. 


When you hear from a listener that says, "I've heard that song 6 times today in 8 hours..," what is your first response?  You should view this as a very positive call! After all, this person is listening for about 8 hours per day! That's the average Time Spent Listening for some stations for an entire week!  Letís hope this person is part of the Nielsen Ratings participation team!  To make programming decisions around these heavy-users is a high risk venture at best. You already have them, and will keep them unless you make dramatic changes to your programming, some of which could be stimulated by those very callers!


Your average listener falls into what we call the "Silent Majority" category.  It is very difficult to understand their tastes and preferences and even more difficult to know their likes and dislikes of your station. Gut feeling or intuition alone, is not reliable.  This is why we recommend doing periodic perceptual studies, audience focus groups and setting up your own listener advisory board, etc. Don't let the fear of the unknown cause you to cling to distorted information.


Brian is a 30 year radio veteran who has successfully served many companies over the years as Program Director, Operations Manger and VP of programming. After many years of success working for individual radio stations and clusters, Brian Joined one of the most trusted consulting firms in the country, Audience Development Group. For the last 15 years Wright has enjoyed building alliances with scores of stations in the US & Canada helping them grow in ratings and revenue. Contact Brian at


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