April 21, 2015

In a study released in February 2015, Bridge Ratings revealed an alternative  to Internet radio which broadcast radio could offer its listeners.

In the initial release of "Music Radio's Killer Internet Strategy", our field study panel of 1500 prime format users for Top 40 radio (CHR), Country and Urban were offered the ability to customize their favorite station in the these formats. Compared to the internet simulcast of their favorite stations, the customized versions performed better across the board in time-spent-listening and number of occasions of use each day.

The study suggested that broadcast radio would be better off providing internet radio stations which would allow their listeners to adjust various programming elements and music mixes to the preference of the individual users.

This update takes another look at the panel's behaviors now three months into the study.

1. The original total sample of 1500 persons (500 per format) continued use of their original customized stations.

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2. The number of daily occasions actually increased from January to April for all format users.

3. Time-spent-per occasion of listening slipped for Top 40 and Urban Custom station users was off slightly while Country listeners exhibited an average increase of two minutes per occasion across the sample.

4. As a side project, Bridge Ratings added four more formats to better appreciate the differences in how listeners customize their stations. A "Customization Quotient" was formulated by identifying a total number of possible customizations that could be applied to the internet radio stations and dividing that number by the average number of customizations actually used by the sample.  This analysis shows that the amount of customization varies depending on the music format. (See chart below)

Customization Quotient : On average 73% of all of the possible customization settings were used by the Urban custom station panel. 50% of all possible customizations were used by Classic Rock panelists, etc.

Urban listeners in this portion of the study utilized almost three-quarters of all possible adjustable options for the format.

Adult Contemporary listeners used the lowest amount - 40% of the customizable options for that format.

The number of adjustments available varied per format. This was determined during the building of the customized stations.  Each user had a variety of "sliders" they could adjust to "more" or "less" in the mix.

This, in itself, is an interesting finding - one that was not expected.

5. 90% of the programmers we shared data with felt that the customization preferences performed by the panels would be highly valuable in better understanding listeners needs.

During the period of January to March 2015, the panel of 500 Top 40 (CHR) listeners adjusted their customize station a variety of ways including:

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  • 42% wanted more Pop Hits,
  • 52% wanted fewer new or unfamiliar songs and
  • 40% adjusted for fewer slow songs.

While this may not be a laser-sharp method of tuning the music on a broadcast radio station, the results do offer a general guide for programmers to investigate.

Did Overall Interest in the Custom Internet Stations Wane?

Of interest with the release of the initial data from this study was whether the high usage of the customized Internet radio stations was due to a "novelty" factor. For Country listeners usage actually increased over the three months (January to March). The number of Urban and CHR listeners tuning in to the custom Internet station in the last 24 hours  slipped slightly during the three month term, but usage figures remain very high.

40% of the CHR panel still tuning in after three months strengthens the case that customizable versions of broadcast radio brands is a viable alternate strategy for broadcast radio seeking to expand their on-line engagement.


1. After three months of weekly interaction with the customized Internet Radio stations, overall interest remains high.

2. Given a choice between listening to the broadcast simulcast of the brand and the personalized version of that brand, daily use of the customizable Internet radio stations remains higher than for the simulcast approach.

3. With the introduction of the customized Internet radio station, use seems to be satisfying different needs. While the simulcast internet stream is used less than the customized version of the familiar brands, listeners seek out the simulcast as an alternative to the customized version. In fact, over 75% of the panels indicate that listening to the radio or the simulcast stream is more enjoyable since using the personalized version. The reason? Curation.

4. We are finding through this study that curation is one of broadcast radio's strongest attributes and both primary and occasional listeners to broadcast radio depend on radio to manage the presentation of popular music on their favorite stations.

While there are many benefits we are finding as a result of this on-going study perhaps point #4 above is one of the most important broadcast managers should keep in mind.

The Biggest Challenge?

It's takes courage, confidence and foresight on the part of radio programmers, group owners and managers to travel down this road.

This on-going study is proving the concept: that customizable internet radio stations which are branded with their broadcast equivalent attract tune-in and usage. It takes courage for a programmer to promote such a personalized internet version of their broadcast property. There is fear that the customized version  will cannibalize its broadcast counterpart.

We are not seeing that occur in this study.

If the brand-extension concept makes managers nervous, a non-branded customized internet radio station using the music positioning of a broadcast brand may be an option.

But the biggest challenge is inertia, broadcast radio moving off a sedentary internet strategy. There is a great opportunity in this option.

Will broadcasters see the light before the opportunity is squandered?

Bridge Ratings will continue to monitor this developing story and will provide regular updates.

How the Study was Conducted:

Bridge Ratings conducted a market-specific study of 1500 Americans ages 12 and older to measure their use of internet radio in the form of AM/FM simulcast.  Phase one of the study included respondents who completed a 7-day diary of their audio listening to simulcast streams. Phase two captured respondents' behavior associated with self-customized internet radio stations created by Bridge Ratings.  Interactive diaries were completed both online and by-mail using a paper diary. The initial study covered the period of January 3-23, 2015. The follow-up study was conducted March 30-April 3, 2015 and measured behavior during the period of February 2, 2015 - March 27, 2015.




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