PPM Forcing Radio Programmers, Personalities to Pay Attention to Listener Preferences

When the Personal People Meter arrived on the radio industry scene nearly two years ago to replace the antiquated Arbitron diary system, it was hailed as a more accurate means by which to track listener preferences. Today, while still in its infancy, the PPM is providing radio programmers and managers even greater and more subtle insights than even they expected or imagined.

For example, listener interest regarding particular music, promotions, contests, discussion topics and length of commercial breaks can be readily and accurately analyzed and scrutinized.  If a listener doesn’t like a song or a show guest and tunes out as a result, it is recorded in cold, hard data. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Such information has already caused some controversy between Ryan Seacrest and his bosses at Clear Channel Communications, Inc. The Wall Street Journal weighed in this week. Evidently Seacrest is being told to talk less and play more music, based on listener tune out when he does more of the former and less of the latter.  Some radio stations have actually began opting away from re-booking particular talk show guests after they generated less than favorable PPM numbers in previous appearances.

Radio is always best when it is spontaneous and largely unscripted and one would hope that the “powers that be” will not allow the PPM to handcuff host creativity. At the same time, the PPM is providing airwave talkers with a new and insightful reality check. Not exactly ‘put up or shut up,’ but a reminder that, quite often, on-air chatter is best and most appreciated in short bursts. It is also pays to listen to your listeners, if you want them to continue to listen to you.