Hearing Little Drummer Boy across the holidays these days brings to mind the PPM-era acronym for Persons Using Measured Media, PUMM. Measured Media is, of course, any media source that’s PPM-encoded. As it applies to audio sources, that includes radio stations in PPM markets and can include their delayed content in the form of podcasts. It doesn’t include Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, audiobooks and a zillion other things people might be listening to these days.

In the station-focused client studies NuVoodoo conducted in 2018, we continued to see shifts in workday listening. In many markets and especially among female demos, the routine #1 workday choice was Pandora. In markets where Pandora wasn’t the number one choice, it was because Spotify had siphoned off Pandora share.

While we still see the workday table tilted in favor of FM, the total of Pandora, Spotify and other Internet pureplays regularly 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 declines in rating.

It’s easy to dismiss Pandora and Spotify as doing nothing but replacing time people spent with their CD collections or spent fiddling with iTunes or MP3’s. But, both services have well-crafted recommendation engines to showcase music the user may like and both are set up so that the music continues playing … after the thing you set out to listen to ends.

We urge stations to take this new competition seriously. Broadcasters can’t match Internet pureplays for low commercial inventory, music quantity or music variety in the current environment. 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 might get someone with earbuds in one hand to turn on FM that day?

  • Maybe it’s that 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 the listener feels as though she’s spending time with a good friend who’s 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 herself.
  • 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.

Fighting against Pandora, Spotify 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 2019!