Underwriting Mean Time

Tom Taylor’s blog on radio-info.com carried this note about the effect PPM is having on when stations play their ads. Not only does PPM change the kind of music played — witness the flocking to AAA music preceding the advent of the PPM in various markets — it also affects when stations are now playing ads (or, excuse me, “underwritings,” in the case of public radio stations):

The PPM is affecting not only stations – but syndicators. Specifically, in placement of spot sets. Listen to some of the sports syndicators (ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio), and you’re hearing a cleaned-up hourly “clock” that reflects some of the lessons (so far) of the Arbitron PPM. Such as — spot sets now positioned at the end of the quarter hours, along the lines of the advice that one presenter gave at last December’s Arbitron Consultant Fly-In. Clear Channel-Atlanta programmer Scott Lindy jokes that by that same December evening, almost all the stations in Atlanta had adjusted their clocks. Now syndicators and networks are getting with the program, too. Fox Sports Radio starts either right at :00 or :01 in most cases and goes to nearly the end of the first quarter hour before a spot pod with its own network ads and then local spots. The advice out of the Fly-In was to think about slotting commercials starting around :13 or :14 after the hour, and again about :43-:44. What’s going to become much less common in PPM-practice is the traditional toxic-dumping of spots into the fourth quarter hour. Many stations used to load up those 15 minutes with two lengthy spot sets — because the diary showed that listening was the lowest in that final quarter hour. But PPM reveals listening is distributed much more equally around the hour, and that lesson is being acted on by stations and now syndicators.

Look for your public radio stations, who have become enamored of the ad-buying demographic 25 to 54, to follow suit — despite every indication that the youth market has gone elsewhere. See the post from yesterday . . . And this mad rush to AAA radio, in vain pursuit of a younger audience, flies in the face of the purported mission of public radio. As KUT GM Steward Vanderwilt waxed so poetic once upon a time:

KUT is . . . a community for music lovers. From adult rock to folk, from blues to world music, KUT seeks out music that isn’t promoted, packaged, or hyped. Music you wouldn’t find without us. . . .

KUT is a community of people like you — principled and independent, curious and intelligent. People who cherish their rights as individuals to think, speak and act for themselves. Citizens who get involved when they know that they can make a difference.

And sometimes they get involved when they can’t make a difference — when they’re cut out of the equation… In that vein, a new Facebook site has sprung up around the Boston station WUMB, whose listeners are among the most involved of those protesting the move to Triple A radio (link on side) and the loss of Barnes Newberry, whose Facebook site is here if you want to let him know.

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