What You See Depends on Where You Stand – Part 1

By Wayne Clouten, BPR

Several famous people have been attributed with the phrase “what you see depends upon where you stand”, who-ever is responsible, truer words were never spoken.  Your perception and what you believe you know about something is greatly influenced by the nature of your frame of reference.  This is particularly true of research.  Scope of sample, demographic focus, questionnaire design, collection methodology, time of study and interpretation of the data are just some of the variables to consider that can alter what you see.  The “truth” of something changes a lot depending on where you stand.

Radio listening surveys are generally a measurement of radio listeners who listen to a defined list of radio stations.  Let us call that measurement of listening “inside the radio box”. Such research is the currency for how radio listening distributes between the radio stations measured however when you take a broader view of total listening behaviour of which radio is just a component, albeit a major component; you start to see things very differently.

A key issue in the 21st Century is who your competitors really are.  Much debate about radio survey results often involves commentary about which stations gained and which stations lost.  People will comment that station X lost audience to station Y.  This may be true in terms of the relative distribution of radio listening as measured within the radio listening box but that does not necessarily mean that station X actually lost listeners to station Y.  BPR’s All Audio studies reveal that many radio stations, particularly music stations are competing significantly more with other forms of audio than other radio stations.  Much of the statistical movement we see in radio surveys, particularly TSL movement has likely nothing to do with an exchange of TSL between radio stations, it is more to do with an exchange of TSL between a radio station and other forms of audio.

All of this is not to say there is anything wrong with radio ratings and measuring within the radio box. It is all relative between the stations measured and we can assume a fair assessment of measuring a share of “radio listening” as distributed between the radio stations listed in the survey.

The degree to which radio listeners use other forms of audio varies quite a lot depending on demographic and station format.  Developing radio strategy is now more than just looking within the radio box for what you need to do to optimise your stations listening performance.  Yes, you have competitors which are radio station’s and you must have a strategy and tactics to deal with that however increasingly stations are now competing more with other forms of audio for the attention of their listeners.  We have been observing an exponential development of this issue in recent times.  COVID has likely accelerated this development in listening behaviour but the trend was already there well prior to COVID.

This issue is often particularly manifest in P1 listeners of a radio station.  They may love you and have absolutely no interest in any other radio station….when they are listening to radio…but that is not to say they don’t have a great interest in another form of audio and will spend more time with it in the future.

The key issue is to appreciate that listeners are more than just radio listeners and for the average listener, radio is just part of a much broader listening ecosystem they have access to and can move within seamlessly to create the listening experience they want.

Ever sat down and looked at your latest ratings and scratched your head saying, “where did our TSL go?”  Well now you probably have an idea…however that depends upon where you stand.


Like to continue the discussion?  Email me at wayne.clouten@bprworld.com

This article is the first in a series about all audio listening insight.



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