Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Roadmap 2017: Six (of the many) Trends We're Watching for Country Radio

As we prepare to send A&O&B's on-line perceptual “Roadmap 2017” into the field, I thought a look back at some of the many topics we explored in last year’s study would be interesting to share again with the idea of doing a follow-up post to see how these same topics look when we complete this year’s survey.

As background, nearly 10,000 Country Listeners across the US and Canada participated in last year’s project which ran for three weeks in January and February. From that data, I did a quick pull of 18-49 US and Canadian respondents’ feedback on “In-Car Connectivity,” “Switching Behavior,” Station Satisfaction” (different from Music Satisfaction), “Listener Hot Buttons,” “Social Behavior,“ and “Loyalty.”

Here is what the data revealed.
  1. In-car connectivity increased significantly from 2015. While all demos saw an increase compared to last year, 18-34’s were the most likely to be connected compared to 35-54’s. Plus, the percent of connected 18-34s grew at a greater level than that of 35-54s.
  2. Country switching behavior was more decisive – at least in terms of what format listeners switched to when leaving their favorite country station. “Nothing in particular” fell by roughly 30% while the greatest increase was “Switching to another AM/FM radio station with a different format.” The percent switching to a Podcast doubled though that choice was far behind others including “Nothing in particular.”
  3. While overall station satisfaction levels remained high, there was a slight decline again this year the top tier – the “Very Satisfied” response group. The greatest dip was among 18-24s.
  4. “Playing the best music” continues to be the number one “hot button” for listeners followed by “makes me feel good when I listen,” “DJs who sound like my friends,” and song quantity. Last year song/artist identification broke into the Top 5.
  5. The social media platform with the largest increase of daily usage year over year was Instagram.
  6. The P1 "Switichability Resistance" remained strong - near 50% - thus maintaining a high bar for format challengers.
Each of these six pull-outs presents some important thinking points for 2017:
  • How are we leveraging the unique assets we own?
  • What are any listener-perceived vulnerabilities or opportunities?
  • What will our strategy be in a time of lower “switch to” cume?
  • Knowing what listeners’ hot buttons are, how are we satisfying those wants and needs?
  • How are we managing our social media strategies and efforts?

Roadmap 2017 will go into the field this week and provide us with fresh, new listener feedback to consider.  Participating stations will receive not only the national data, but also separate feedback from their own listeners in a special, local, custom breakout. This year, we’ve added even more questions that offer head-to-head local comparisons of the perceptions OUR listeners hold vs. those of our direct format competitors.

We’ll present top line national findings for both the US and Canada surveys at A&O&B’s 23rd annual pre-CRS Seminar in Nashville, Wednesday, February 22nd at 10am.

We hope you can make it.

You can RSVP to the A&O&B session here.

You can register for CRS 2017 here.

Inquire about Roadmap participation here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Formats with the Most Momentum Entering 2017: Questions to Ask As You Survey the Competitive Landscape

Towards the end of each year, Nielsen releases its Top Audio Trends report which lists the 10 leading formats in terms of share for the past January through November in PPM markets.  There are separate rankings for 6+, 18-34 and 25-54.

In 2016 News-Talk led in 6+ with CHR winning 18-34 and 25-54. Country and CHR were the only formats to rank in the top three in each demo.

Here are last year’s top three formats.


Breaking out the formats by demo, it’s tempting to cite the election as driving News/Talk’s position. However, while this year’s 6+ shares were notably higher, the format has been the top 6+ format in each of the last four years.

Of all formats that have been in the top 10 over this time, the format with the greatest 6+ growth since 2013 is Hot AC (+0.9) with Classic Rock a close second (+0.8) and Sports (+0.4).

Hot AC5.
Classic Hits5.
Classic Rock4.
Urban AC5.
Urban Contemp3.53.7
Mex Regional3.93.73.7

Among 18-34s, Urban Contemporary saw the largest growth since 2013 (+1.3) and has added shares each year. Hot AC also had strong growth 18-34 (+1.2) followed by Classic Rock (+0.9).

Hot AC6.
Urban Contemp5.
Rhythmic CHR7.
Mex Regional5.65.24.65
Classic Rock3.

Among 25-54s, Hot AC is the growth leader (+0.9) with Classic Rock next (0.7) and Sports third (+0.4).

Hot AC6.
Classic Rock4.
Classic Hits4.
Urban AC6.
Mex Regional4.

Over the four year period, Hot AC and Classic Rock were the two formats registering the largest gains in all demos.

Across the same time period, Country was off half a share or less in each demo (-0.4, -0.5 and -0.2). However the declines since the format’s highs in 2014 are steeper: -0.8, -0.8 and -0.7.

Shares differ in the diary universe. This trended 12+ format information is available only to diary subscribers via Nielsen’s Audio Today Appendix.

Regardless of the methodology, these questions are worth considering as we start a New Year:
  1. What are the major trends in my market (station trends, demo shifts, market AQH, etc.)?
  2. What are key factors driving these trends for my format as well as my competitors’?
  3. What should my station’s responses be to each of these factors?

As we start the New Year, a quick look back can be a useful tool in moving forward.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017


We’re fresh off toasts to the start of a new year - or perhaps instead you toasted “good riddance” to 2016.

Either way it’s probable that someone, somewhere, recently brought up New Year’s Resolutions.

I have no beef with resolutions though often they can be too vague (lose weight) or too negative (stop doing something).

Better I think to plan for self-improvement in the New Year with specific, positive goals and an easy to follow map to help you get where you want to go.

So if improving the quality and engaging nature of your content one break at a time is a goal for 2017, you deserved to be toasted: T.O.A.S.T.ED.

T.O.A.S.T.ED. in this case is an acronym you can use as a checklist for strengthening your content while it’s still in the developmental stage. Each letter offers a way to power up your idea for maximum impact.

Here’s what the letters stand for:


Let's look at each.


"Camera angle" is a phrase I first heard from friend and talent coach Tommy Kramer. It's one of the most useful and important "checks" you should subject your idea to. Fixing the camera angle is another way of asking, “What’s the best way to fame this content?”

Most content has multiple camera angles and some will make a deeper connection than others. The angle you choose plays a big part in determining the impact of your material. Consider as may angles as you can before deciding on the one that is most aligned with the target and their perceptions of you and the station.


Everyone has access to the same information as you do. Plus, by the time your next show rolls around, you may be dealing with something many people already know. But an original perspective overcomes these potential pitfalls.

Your personal “take” on a topic makes your content unique and valuable. It also helps clarify who you are and what you stand for (there’s more on that in Defining).


There are lots of moving parts to accessibility including pre-promotion, recycling, repurposing, social, and archiving. Planning for full accessibility from the start not only means maximum reach for your material, but also can foster new ideas for iterating your original concept.


Accessibility is part of this of course, but before that comes quality. It's either great or it's spam. Your brand is at stake so be sure you’ve done all you can to fully exploit your material.

This would be a great place to invoke the Seven Magic Words (“That’s great – what else can we do?”).


Even a great take can be neutered by tardiness. Delayed delivery of time sensitive content sends a message that this item wasn't particularly important to you. That's a big problem if it was important to listeners.

"Continuing content," such as those long-running concert announcements need special attention as well. Your best bet here is to refer back to “T” and “O” for ways to inject freshness into items with long shelf lives.


Simply put, how will you get me to have a stake in this piece of content - at least enough of a stake to keep my attention and interest? This is also a critical question for multi-break content.

What is there in the content and execution that will repeatedly bring me back for more?

What has been included to encourage virtual or actual listener participation?


Over time what you do on your show will help define who you are to listeners. That's exciting when you're working to make every break count, but it’s a hard dose of reality when you’re winging it.

If improving your content is one of your goals for the New Year, try applying the T.O.A.S.T.E.D. checklist to your work.

Check in during the year and share how it’s going.

Cheers! And here's to a great year ahead!