Media, Radio

Unmeasurable? Really? NPR and the fate of low PPMed stations

As most of you had heard, Congress is thinking about removing funding from NPR, which may wipe them off of the planet.  Disclaimer: I am a NPR member so I do feel like I have a special interest in keeping the stations running.  I’m not sure how else I would get my news, science, and entertainment fix from radio or really any other source if these guys went off the air.

But my decision to buy “sponsorships” (spots) on the stations isn’t driven by the factors listed above.  The audience that listens to this station is of a caliber that isn’t anywhere else on terrestrial radio – they are affluent (well, affluent being a relative term – I’m wealthy in happiness, friends, love, etc), they are engaged in the station and its content, and they pay attention to the advertising.

How do I know this? Practical experience.  In a particular market (which will remain unnamed) we had a very extensive branding campaign on radio and online for a client this past summer.  The goal was to drive web site visitation and we saw barely a tick of uplift from this particular market.  Then, in the fall, we switched gears and ran only traffic sponsorships on terrestrial radio and NPR sponsorships.  It also didn’t hurt that we sponsored an NPR event that was happening in the location.  But boy, did we see that visitation spike during this time period! It was incredible!  Lesson learned – I had finally found the right audience for my client’s message.  Perfect.

The only un-perfect fact is that NPR isn’t measured by the PPMs.  But I have a suspicion that they would show up pretty low in listenership anyway.  Why? Do you really think that the people that listen to NPR are the same people that are willing to be paid to wear a beeper all day so people can track what they listen to? 

This same problem befalls all of the jazz stations, too.  I had a conversation with someone from the local jazz station right when PPM was coming into play.  He had found that in all of the previous markets switching to PPM that the jazz stations all dropped below original diary numbers.  He looked at the make-up of the PPM candidates and found that his target household income and lifestage were unrepresented. 

He also found that these jazz stations began to work around this fact by bringing more value to their advertisers, which is why Lexus, doctors’ offices, and luxury products still advertise.  They know the audience they want to reach is still listening, even though the PPMs don’t show it, and they now have more access to the audience through other means that the radio stations have provided.

This concludes my mini-series on radio.  A summary of everything mentioned:  Spots are important to buy.  You want to buy them efficiently and effectively.  But radio can include so much more than just running your ad.  They have many other facets that you can, and should, take advantage of in order to maximize your reach and dollars and surround your audience in a cocoon of your messages.

Let me and my readers know any radio buying mantras you live by that I missed.  If you see any articles that you think would tickle my fancy, send them my way.  A shout out to Pat with Florida Public Broadcasting for the blog article from Jacob’s media “Why NPR matters to public radio.”

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