Moneyball: What Turns Off More Listeners Than Commercials?

Irritated man plugs ears with both hands, ignores bad sound, wears yellow hat and t shirt, stands in

As we’ve said before, in the pursuit of higher AQH you can strive to increase cume, build more listening occasions, or extend listening spans per occasion. Extending listening spans is tough – most listen to radio while doing other things: driving, working, exercising, etc. When those activities are completed, the radio is turned off.

We all know the legends of a listener being late to work because they were trapped in their car, unable to stop listening to a captivating interview or hysterically funny bit. Those occurrences are rare as steak tartare. In practice, trying to extend listening spans is about avoiding unforced errors – tuneouts.

This summer’s NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Study 22 showed several things more likely to cause tuneouts than commercial breaks. Among those who are regular broadcast radio listeners in our sample of 2,504 respondents ages 14-54 nationwide, 38% cited commercial breaks as a reason to tune out. As many said songs being repeated multiple times in a few hours caused tune out. A few more (1%) cited talk about things that don’t interest them as a thing that caused tuneout.

But the worst offender, at 45% of the radio listeners in our sample, was too many bad songs. Burned out songs caused tuneout for 36%. Horizontal repetition, songs repeated at the same time from one day to another, caused tuneout for 34%. The same vibe, songs that all sound the same, was a problem for 33%.

Just over a fifth of the research-friendly respondents in our sample model as being likely to empanel with Nielsen if offered into a meter or diary sample. They’re labeled “RPS Yes” in the tables below and deserve our attention, since they’re the people who give stations their report cards. You might expect them to be less likely to find reasons to tune out, but actually they’re more likely to find reasons to tune out.

At 58%, it’s nearly 3 in 5 “RPS Yes” ratings likelies who cited too many bad songs as a reason they’ve tuned out – eight points worse than commercial breaks. For music radio, getting everything just right is so incredibly important. It’s hard enough to get a playlist right for one person, but radio does it for thousands of people.

For most stations, a library test is the best way to ensure their music is in tune with the tastes of the audience. Library music tests are a quick solution in most cases – getting results back on up to 600 songs all at one time, usually within about four weeks. If your library doesn’t require testing 600 titles, we offer a 400-title test with 100 respondents, the OMT Lite, that can be delivered for less than $10K.

Even with advancements available by conducting interviews online, 600 hooks is still a lot of hooks and NuVoodoo is as concerned as any programmer is about fatigue. To deal with shorter attention spans in our multi-screen-always-connected world, NuVoodoo founder and president Carolyn Gilbert came up with an elegant option: The EXT online music test.

In the EXT, we over-recruit by a factor of two or more for a 600-title test. Each respondent rates HALF the music hooks and answers ALL the perceptual questions in the test. Technology allows us to match up sample monads so that every song is rated by a perfect representation of the specified sample (usually 100 respondents balanced by target demographic, ethnicity, station cume and preference). Stations benefit from the larger sample for their perceptual questions. All respondents are screened perfectly and rigorously checked for quality – as they always are at NuVoodoo.

Despite the greater number of respondents, pricing for the EXT is the same as for a longer-interview OMT since shorter interviews are less expensive to conduct. Carolyn explains the EXT concept in a two-minute video. Reach out to Carolyn for more information at or me, Leigh Jacobs, at