Bridge Ratings Format X-Ray... Adult Hits

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Why Are Adult Hits/JACK Formats More Vulnerable to Listening Wobble?

Bridge Ratings President, Dave Van Dyke announced today the release of the company’s latest in-depth analysis of the Adult Hits format.

An analysis of the format of multiple genres presents troubling long-term trending data. While new station radio formats peaking in ratings and then leveling off is nothing new to the industry, the Adult Hits and "Jack" formatted radio stations are among an elite group of radio formats that experience extreme rapid growth when programmed, positioned, promoted and marketed properly.

However, Bridge Ratings' analysis of this format now approaching its two-year anniversary of its first appearance in the U.S. on KJAC-FM, Denver, shows that with very little exception, the format is more vulnerable to ratings and audience "wobble" than most. In previous analyses of this very listenable format, initial findings showed ratings fluctuations due to the format's initial element of varied music genres with extreme audience appeal differences played back-to-back. This 'train wreck' programming philosophy has been one of the reasons initial interest in these stations has skyrocketed - it hadn't been done before in most markets. These 'train wreck' music segues began to result in time-spent-listening variances. Our studies showed that after some period of time, listeners were more inclined to use these stations as utilities with short, but frequent tune-in.

In this most recent study, Bridge Ratings interviewed Preference 1 (P1) and Preference 2 (P2) listeners. We delineated the audience of this format by the type of music they preferred. Since this newest incarnation of the Adult Hits format relies on multiple music genres appearing on the same radio station, Bridge Ratings asked its listeners to identify their favorite genre of all those being played on the stations and to rate those genres. The following were found the be consistent genres across the stations we studied*:

  • Alternative Rock
  • Classic Rock
  • Pop Hits
  • 60's Oldies
  • Classic Hits
  • Dance
  • R&B
  • Adult Contemporary

Adult Hit program directors can manipulated the amount of each of these genres to fine-tune the sound of their stations based on their local market tastes. This is why some Adult Hit/JACK stations sound more AC than others. Some have a definite Alternative slant, while still others accentuate Pop Hits. Depending on the market and competitive landscape, each of these versions can deliver gang-buster ratings.

Once we isolated these "genre-classes", we asked each to rate their Adult Hits station on a scale of 1 to 5:

  1. I rarely listen. I spend less than 30 minutes a day
  2. I used to listen a lot more, but now I'm listening only 30-45 minutes a day.
  3. The station's OK. I listen about an hour a day
  4. I like the station a lot. I spend between 1 and 2 hours a day with it.
  5. I love this station. It's my favorite. I listen more than 2 hours a day.

Based on these responses, during 2005 Bridge Ratings tracked these genre-classes to determine long-term station listening patterns. We discovered that different genre-classes become fatigued with the station faster than others. Members of some genre-classes reduce their listening for a short time then come back to previous heavy listening patterns.

All of this points to an additional dimension as to why this format tends to have more frequent ratings "ups" and "downs". Juggling up to 8 different genre-classes of listeners and keeping them happy is not an easy challenge. Program Directors in charge of such stations need to be aware of the potential for disaster since keeping these listener cohorts balanced and in harmony is what maintains the format's interest and ultimately its ratings.

A Power Point presentation of some of the findings of this study is available to view on line by clicking here.

*This study was conducted between February 1 and December 31, 2005. Adult Hits stations used in this study include KCBS-FM Los Angeles, KJAC-FM Denver, KJKK-FM, Dallas, WJMK-FM Chicago, WCJK-FM Nashville, KPKX-FM Phoenix, KFMB-FM San Diego and KJAQ-FM Seattle.


Bridge Ratings was founded in 2003 by former CBS Vice President, Dave Van Dyke. The service offers statistical quantitative and behavioral audience measurement data for the radio industry. Its telephone methodology generates immediate results and reflects current listening trends. Bridge Ratings is also known for its audience migration studies which have been helping clients better understand the impact of on-demand media technology.

1200 person per market sample 25-54 Adults. Sample error +/- 2.9% per market. Total sample = 9600 Adults 25-54. Total sample error +/- .5%


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