It’s Easy to Turn an Aircraft Carrier

Setting out to write about the problems that arise when trying to move a music station’s audience older or younger (or more male or more female or more ethnic, etc.) we started to invoke the image of turning an aircraft carrier.  But, a quick online search reveals that aircraft carriers, being warships, are comparatively nimble for their size.  One video shows the deck of a carrier leaning (listing) at 20 degrees to one side.  So, the better comparison would be turning a cruise ship – where the comfort and safety of passengers becomes paramount.

It’s a well-known tale.  A station wants to enhance its AQH with a younger demographic (or a slightly older demo or more men or more women).  So, the station orders up a catalog music test (traditionally, an AMT, or an OMT from us at NuVoodoo) and pushes the sample more in the desired direction (younger, older, etc.).  Given the desires of the revised music test demo, the music test results support pushing the era balance newer or older – and so new clocks are configured to optimally expose the resulting library.  The changes are implemented and … the ratings go down.  Huh?

Trouble is, of course, that the first people to be impacted by the revised music logs are the ones who were comparatively happy with what had been on the station before the changes.  The people who had been giving the station the bulk of its AQH were doing so because they liked what was being played much of the time when they tuned in.  Now that the mix is different, they’re not so happy.

Remember the cruise ship?  Imagine its passengers dining or sitting by the pool while the ship executes a quick turn, leaning at 20 degrees to one side as the navy does with an aircraft carrier.  No surprise that these listeners reflexively start listening less and/or start spending more time with a competitive station.

While each situation is unique, here are a few things to look at before you leap.

  1. Is the new target realistic?  Does the station have significant prospects for increased TSL among listeners in the new demo?  The station’s aspiration is one thing, but the listeners’ reality can be another.
  2. What demo is responsible for the bulk of station AQH before the change?  What will the resulting shift do to that AQH?  Is an easy alternative for potentially-disenfranchised current listeners to switch to a direct format competitor or one on either side of the station?  In general, changing audience composition with music changes alone takes time and patience – lots of it.
  3. Does the shift offer a real benefit to a significantly-sized group of current cumers for the station?  In making the change, is the station answering a need that listeners actually have?
  4. What are the communication and promotion strategies for the revised library?  How will you let the intended people know that this station is now more suited to them?  Will a new positioning statement be enough to communicate the repositioning to consumers who may not be spending much time with the station?  Is the on-air messaging succinct and impactful so that they’ll notice it at all?


At NuVoodoo, our best clients involve us in their plans from the beginning.  We can find ways to answer these questions before the music screen and the station’s clocks are changed – or we can suggest reasonably-priced tactical marketing possibilities to communicate the changes directly with the newly-targeted audience.

But, for thrill-seekers, being aboard an aircraft carrier executing a 20 degree banked-turn looked like a lot of fun.