Siphoning off PUMM from Workdays

Among the lasting impressions of the station-focused client studies NuVoodoo conducted in 2016 was the continuing shift in workday listening. In many markets and especially among female demos, the routine #1 workday choice was not an FM station; the routine #1 workday choice was Pandora. While the workday table is still tilted decisively in favor of FM, totaling up Pandora and other Internet pureplays sometimes accounts for as much as 1/3 of the workday preference in a sample.

Internet pureplays are insidious competition. They’re not listed in Nielsen. They’re just there, as an unseen factor, siphoning off PUMM. Shares maintain previous levels compared to competing terrestrial stations, despite slow changes in rating. Given Nielsen’s refusal to add another decimal point and show AQH Ratings out to hundredths of a point, stations are only alerted to the Internet pureplay fungus once the station’s rating has dropped enough to have moved a full tenth of a rating point.

We’ve been urging stations to take this new competition seriously. In the current deal of the cards, broadcasters can’t match Internet pureplays for low commercial inventory, music quantity or music variety. So, if you’re positioning your station’s workday superiority based only on those attributes, you may be keeping other terrestrial choices at bay, but you’re saying nothing to the listener who is planning to spend the day online.

What’s likely to keep someone with earbuds in one hand to turn on FM that day?

  • Maybe it’s that sometimes the station talks about her, the listener, and her coworkers or some employer where her friends work.
  • Maybe it’s that the host loves the same songs she does and talks about being happier after hearing them.
  • Maybe the host sounds more concerned with how the day is going than about an endless stack of station-sponsored events and promotions.
  • Maybe it’s that the host matches the attitude and sense of humor of the listener, so that she, the listener, feels as though she’s spending time with a good friend who’s just choosing the music for the day.
  • Maybe it’s that the host adds a small smile, reminding her that the workday will give way to time for family, herself and, yes, other chores.
  • Maybe it’s an uncanny ability to have seized on talking about the one thing that’s most interesting that day in only a few words at a time; the big event on TV that night, whether the road construction that made the morning commute a disaster will be cleaned up in time for the ride home, whether the weather will be better (or suddenly worse) on the ride home, the opening of a new store at the big mall, etc.

In the end, fighting against Pandora and other Internet pureplays is fighting against robots. Those high-tech services don’t have humans to impart the high-touch, human element to which many of us are drawn. For broadcasters, it’s a matter of giving the humans on the air the latitude to be human, while giving them direction so that they don’t overreach and try to turn these finesse elements into a talk show.

Here’s to greater appreciation and attention to the midday host’s task! Here’s to 2017!