The Death of Settling?

Every NuVoodoo perceptual study questionnaire is custom; written from the beginning to address the specific concerns that caused the client to engage us. There are, however, those go-to questions that we often insert to have a way to look at one study compared to others. Even before we opened the doors at NuVoodoo at the end of 2010, we’d asked about “settling” in study questionnaires in some form or fashion.

“Settling,” in this case, refers to the portion of station P1’s who agree with the idea that the station they listen to most isn’t what they’d really like, but it’s the best available. Back in the 90’s and earlier in the 2000’s we watched as settling numbers rose higher and higher, especially among younger demos. Asking this same question over and over in studies (and watching the subsequent ratings trajectory) taught us that there was a maximum number for station settling. Over time, listeners would “solve” their settling situation by either (a) becoming more content with a station or (b) switching to another station.

In recent years, we’ve been watching a reversal in that late-90’s/early 2000’s trend: we’re seeing settling numbers decline. Could it be that radio programmers have become so adept at their craft that more listeners are satisfied with the stations they listen to now? Could it be that modern research does a better job at pointing the way to make wider portions of audiences happy? Of course, these factors could be contributing to this change.

We’ll suggest, however, that a significant portion of the change is that those who’ve been most inclined to report that they’re only settling for a radio station are finding another way to “solve” their settling: listen to another type of radio. While radio has seen lots of technological changes in its century-long history – and lots of challenges – wireless internet is the first that allows consumers to easily access diverse programming resources while on the go. Smartphone apps and connected cars are reducing the friction consumers experience. Radio finds itself on the widest, deepest stage in its history.

As more consumers become more comfortable with the technology available and as more connected cars enter the fleet, radio broadcasters need to up their game to compete with these new listening options. It cannot be assumed that time in a car equals time spent listening to broadcast radio or that broadcast radio will be the go-to source for consumers at work. Broadcast radio has to work to retain its current consumers and, optimally, lure back some of those who are experimenting with new options.

While continuing to employ tactics to try to increase share of their station at the expense of competing stations in the market, broadcast radio operators need to spend more time strategizing how to build listening with consumers who are in danger of straying beyond the dial. Broadcast radio needs more reasons for consumers to connect more often and new reasons for consumers to fall in love (all over again) with our brands.

Earlier this month, following up our talk at the All Access Worldwide Radio Summit, we shared ideas and thought-starters on new tactics for radio – and we’ll expound more deeply on those ideas next week. It’s an exciting time to be in the content business.