Audience Dialogue

Results of radio listening

Case study 21

When I managed the listener panel for a radio network with a small but highly articulate audience (see case study 2) the network was constantly under threat from top management types who looked at the network's cost per audience member, and wondered aloud whether this could be justified.

Discussing this issue with the network's manager, it occurred to us that sheer audience size is necessarily a good indicator of a station's success. What if a station has a very small audience, but indirectly has a large impact on society? When I'd done qualitative research for this particular network, I'd sometimes noticed that listeners had not been content with simply listening to a program: they had taken some action after hearing it. In some cases, this simply involved seeking further information, but other people had mentioned taking much more drastic action.

So in the next panel survey for this network, we asked something like:

"Have any radio programs in the last 3 months caused you to take any follow-up action? If so, which programs? What action did you take?"
This question produced amazing results. We uncovered an enormous range of actions, including More than half of these listeners had done something to follow up a program - far more than we had expected. If anybody ever doubted the power of radio, this research showed very clearly that radio need not be a passive medium.

(Of course, commercial radio also depends on action for its success: but the action in that case is spending money on the products advertised in the station's commercials.)

If you are interested in radio station marketingradio marketing and program strategyradio audience research and related topics, I suggest you review our book Participative Marketing for Local Radio. Chapter 3 talks about research findings on radio audiences, and chapter 4 discusses program strategy.