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What Happens When Reality is Better than Perception?

In designing the two national consumer studies that NuVoodoo fielded for 2016, whenever possible we wanted to ask new questions and probe different aspects of what listeners get from our brands.  With buzz in the digital press about “curated playlists” on Spotify and some of its competitors, as well as the mysterious algorithm that Pandora uses to program its streams, we wondered how listeners imagine music is programmed on terrestrial radio.

So, we asked.  First, we asked how they imagine their P1 music station chooses its music.  Then we asked how they think the station should choose its music.  While it varies significantly by music format, here we’re showing the total sample of music station P1’s – and the gaps between perception and preference are quickly apparent.

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In general, listeners believe stations follow charts, have DJ’s use their expertise, take requests or just take money from record promoters.  Meanwhile, these listeners tell us strikingly that they want a say in the programming through requests and music research.

Here’s a case where reality is really much more positive than listener perception.  Stations spend large amounts of time and money determining listener demand for music.  Stations are eager for input, so that their playlists reflect correctly the best choices for listeners, but listeners are, in the main, relatively unaware.

When we asked if stations are interested in their feedback, the results were not positive.

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At best, fewer than 2 in 5 P1’s for any music format believe that stations are interested in their feedback.  While you can’t successfully program a station by just playing requests, these data show that stations can do a better job communicating the tremendous concern they do have for listener preferences.

In the pre-internet days, some stations conducted “music tests” on the air on Sunday nights, playing hooks and having participants fill out answer forms included in that morning’s Sunday newspaper.  Of course, wasn’t useable research, but it was a great way to promote the station’s commitment to listener preferences and build database.

We don’t advocate turning stations over to request lines or making decisions based on easily-manipulated tools like Rate the Music (essentially, a request line on steroids), but having a well-conceived program to demonstrate your station’s commitment to its listeners’ opinions just seems to make good marketing sense.  There’s a difference between research and promotion, and we see an opportunity for stations to promote what they’re already doing … asking listeners for bona fide research response.  At the same time, stations can use the channels they already have (on-air, on-line, mobile) to solicit opinions that aren’t going to be tabulated in research results – but can be used to enhance goodwill and let listeners know that we know they have choice.  And that their input isn’t appreciated more by anyone than it is by us.

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