For Radio: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Ever wonder why Christmas music seems to start so early each year? It’s all about dollars and, if you’ll pardon the pun, ‘sense’ with Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Bill Shea taking a look in this week’s issue. His comprehensive examination shows that stations such as WNIC play more of such music because more of us listen, ratings rise and higher rates can be charged for commercials. Dollars and cents, indeed. I was honored to provide perspectives for the piece in the company of true industry legends. And, as there is only so much room in one article, I thought I would share additional thoughts here to complement a story I highly recommend reading.

As Shea explains the holiday ratings book as it is known encompasses November and December each year.  During that time period, WNIC sees its listeners literally double and revenues soar an estimated 30%. This happens each and every year.  Are, you might wonder, newer media competitors at all affecting this market dominance? After all, Sirius/XM has several Christmas stations available with Pandora and the streaming like also ready, willing and able to offer customized holiday fare at the tap of an app. The answer seems to be, at least for now, not so much.

Part of this is due to the fact that satellite and streaming are not rated in the same way terrestrial radio is. Pandora, in fact, is typically measured in impressions (ala online digital) as opposed to radio’s quarter hour ‘share’ or weekly ‘cume’ (total number of different persons listening to a station in a week). That said, WNIC’s Christmas listenership continues to stay strong with no significant noticeable blips.

No doubt benefiting stations such as WNIC this time of year are the portable people meters, which are worn or carried by randomly chosen listeners and measure terrestrial radio sound waves, in turn recording actual station listenership. With holiday music often played in the workplace as well as in retail establishments, anyone working or shopping in those environments while wearing a PPM add to the ratings windfall, even through passive environmental exposure.

I also like to consider the factor of who is in control of the dial at holiday home gatherings. It’s a proven fact that kids often rule the radio roost in the car.  At home, however, music consumption can take on a different look.  Consider a family holiday gathering where the 20- or 30-something kids come home with, perhaps, grandkids in tow. To add to the Christmas feel during the visit, the baby boomer parents/grand parents want to play Christmas music. Statistics show that the boomer consumer has a greater comfort level with traditional radio over satellite and streaming. Their choice, then, for non-stop X-mas tunes is more likely to be radio and an WNIC.  More ratings.

And so, it seems we should all stop complaining when the holiday musings of Burl Ives and Nat King Cole begin emanating from the airwaves just days after we hand out Halloween candy. Because, despite our belly-aching (in November not on October 31st), we are, in reality, tuning in rather than turning away.  Those visions of sugar plums are simply too strong and too much of a wonderful, feel-good tradition to ignore. And so we don’t. And so we listen – with glee.