Radio Meter Measures Listener’s Tastes More Accurately: Men Like Soft Rock.

Back When Radio was Good.

A meter known quite simply as the Portable People Meter, which measures radio listenership from your car, has recently been introduced to more cities to measure American listener’s tastes. After measuring more large market cities, it’s been revealed that the Arbitron surveys, wherein listeners were asked to record their radio habits into diaries, were greatly misleading, as people were willing to proclaim their tastes as more suitable to their lifestyle than they’d really like to admit. According to the research, of the markets that converted from the survey to the meter, men actually make up 40.1% of the soft rock audience, compared to survey results where only 34.7% of men would admit to digging the lighter side. Similarly, these new results spell bad news for stations that have become niche genres, such as jazz, classical, and latino music, as their ratings have dropped since the change.

While this may alter light rock’s advertising and marketing departments slightly (i.e.: More car commercials), what it means for folks like you and me may change the playlists of our classic rock stations. In the article by the New York Times, one particular quote stands out as a shining beacon of obviousness: “The meter is sort of making radio more homogenous, because the stations that do best are the mass appeal stations.”
On one hand: D’uh. But when you consider what that means, it suggests a horrible future of radio where advertisers will pay handsomely for a playlist that will conform to precisely what their perceived audience wants to hear, which may be more limited than you’d think for a communication art that is supposed to be widespread and varied.
One of the secrets of a successful DJ (and, to an extent, their sales department) is to imagine you have to direct the focus of everything you do on a single person — usually, a conglomerate of carefully researched demographics. For somewhere like New York City, there’s a good chance where WAXQ’s playlist will remain fairly wide and inclusive for most tastes of hard rock. However, for smaller markets — both the independently owned and the corporate stations — it means that local advertisers will want songs that will keep audiences attention by attacking their more base tastes, bands that take no real challenge to appreciate, as most people listen to the radio during the day and could not care. When I spent a few days at a small market station, they summed up their listenership as “the kind of person who likes their music from the same artists they’ve been listening to since high school, get up and want to hear this music, hear it at work, come home, crack open a beer, sit on the porch, and listen to the same music.” That may be well and good for everyone else, but it ignores a growing population who want more variety in their music. Smaller markets may be dominated by these wide appeal audiences, but the ones who appreciate radio and will actively contribute to it demand more input from their supposedly community-based station.
This is the tragedy of Long Island radio in particular. There is a vast audience of varying tastes in rock here on Long Island, but the one rock station that is situated on Long Island plays primarily to a crowd that (based on the brands they advertised and as frequently as they appear) enjoys the 80’s, a lot. Not everything, mind you, but Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career (you know. . . “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and “Crazy Train” and ah. . . um), Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, and those three Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, mixed in with the only four Led Zeppelin songs any station seems to play anymore, and a whole slew of bands that were, supposedly, popular in the 80’s, yet only have one hit song. Oh, and Bon Jovi (thanks for the one thing Long Islander’s like about you, New Jersey!)
Imagine that, forever. The same music, over and over.
And radio cannot understand why it’s dying.
By the way: “Stairway to Heaven,” “Black Dog,” “All of My Love,” “Fool in the Rain.”

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