But is it really true? Is the key to growing share increased appointment listening?
The notion that Occasions is the key to winning at PPM is based on a well-intended, but ultimately misguided, Arbitron analysis of PPM called Key Indicators of Highly Rated PPM Stations (PDF).
Asserting that No One Wants to Be Average, Arbitron compared average station metrics to highly rated stations and declared:
Getting people to listen longer was Old School. New School is to get people to listen more often.
Thus was born the oft repeated (but never tested) mystic power of Occasions and appointment listening.
We recently collaborated with a skeptical client who wanted to better understand the relationship between occasions, listening spans, and share.
The Arbitron study looked at formats across markets, but our client just wanted to look at their own market.
After all, you compete against the other stations in your market, not similarly formatted stations in the other 47 PPM markets.
We looked at the relationship between share and three measures of listening: Occasions, Time per Occasion, and daily cume.
The first graph shows the relationship between share and listening spans, Time per Occasion (TpO). Each square represents a station.
Share is shown on the vertical axis. The larger the station’s share, the higher the square appears on the graph.
Time per Occasion is shown along the horizontal axis. Stations shown towards the right have higher TpO, while stations towards the left have lower TpO. The actual numbers are irrelevant, it is the direction of the numbers that matter.
Notice that nearly all the stations are stacked on two piles. The two piles represent 9 and 10 minute listening spans.
This means that nearly all of the stations in this market have virtually identical listening spans.
Arbitron found the same thing in their national study.
Arbitron found that the average listening spans for pretty much every station in every format is the same, either 9 or 10 minutes each occasion.
This curious identical listening span pattern has been repeatedly reported by Arbitron, yet it has generated virtually no curiosity, no discussion.
How can it be that the listening spans of every format from Classic Rock and AC to CHR, Country, and All News are all within a minute of each other?
Is this reasonable? Is it possible that virtually every format has the same listening span?
We’ll save this topic for another time, but give that some thought.
Using that logic, we should find that higher ranked stations have more Occasions.
Take a look at the second graph. Based on Arbitron’s assertion, we should see stations arranged in a sort of diagonal cloud moving from lower left to upper right.
The stations with smaller shares would have fewer occasions and would appear in the lower left, while stations with larger shares would have more occasions and appear in the upper right.
We don’t see that. Stations are all over the place.
Some poorly rated stations have many more Occasions than much higher rated station. And some highly rated stations have very few Occasions.
Arbitron’s assertion that winning stations have more Occasions turns out to be untrue when we look at stations across formats in a specific market.
So much for appointment radio.
The graph shows the relationship between share and daily cume. As with the other two graphs, share is shown vertically, while cume is shown along the bottom.
Notice that unlike the other two graphs, the cloud of stations cluster around a diagonal line. Small cume stations also have small shares, and stations with larger cumes have larger shares.
Things get a little strange towards the top, but in this market ethnic FMs and heritage AM stations distort the relationship at the upper end.
So here’s the real deal: With PPM, the only reliable sure-fire way to grow share is to grow cume.
To Arbitron’s credit, their analysis does mention daily cume as a key driver, but somehow that got buried in the excitement over Occasions.
Rather than a New School revelation about how to win at PPM, the answer to growing share turns out to be decidedly Old School.
To grow share in PPM, you have to grow your audience. You need more listeners!
Keep that in mind when you start budgeting for 2013 and corporate red-lines your marketing budget...again.