We don’t recommend you actually do it, but if you did you’d find you can’t go very far.
No matter how good of a driver, no matter how well you know the road and your car, small steering errors add up to become big problems in a matter of seconds.
Normally one keeps a car on the road by constantly making small steering corrections while watching the road. Without any visual feedback, one tends to either over or under correct until the car is in the ditch.
Small steering corrections are also what keep radio stations on the road. Radio stations drift. A station can start out well positioned and perfectly programmed, but without feedback from listeners will become less so over time.
This is the purpose of perceptual research.
Perceptual research is the link between programmer and listener preventing the station from drifting away from listeners, losing touch. The relationship between listener and radio station is dynamic, not static.
Stations are constantly jostling for attention. Music tastes change. New media dangle alternatives raising expectations.
Listener wants and needs are continually changing little by little. However, these subtle changes accumulate over time.
A station that fails to track and respond to these subtle changes can find itself in the ditch. Unfortunately, radio’s new austerity has meant the reduction and even elimination of research at many stations.
Like driving in the dark without headlights, a radio station can ignore listeners for a time without harm, but it inevitably puts the station in deep trouble.
The good news is that radio’s new austerity creates an opportunity for stations who continue to invest in the product. Stations that do even a little research have an advantage over stations that do none. Stations that do extensive research have an advantage over stations that do little.
The bottom line is that even a station that starts out well positioned and perfectly programmed can only stay that way with a systematic steady stream of feedback from listeners through research.
Economic realities may change the ability to do research. It does not change the need.