Portable People Meter (PPM) has been rolling out in major markets across the U.S.
For the first time – radio stations get credit for the people actually exposed to it’s broadcast. Rather than it’s ability to get people to remember & write their name down in a paper diary.
The prevailing “wisdom” developing around PPM was not difficult to predict.
Before PPM – our job was to get people to remember our station.
Now, PPM’s passive measurement is turning our job into making sure the people already listening don’t tune out.
We’re moving from trying to make a mark; to be remembered – to trying to not be objectionable.
Terms like “Mic Flight” were coined to explain what people do when a DJ starts talking.
PPM will not forgive a bad break, an unfamiliar song, a misguided promo, an obnoxious commercial, a boring interview.
Everything, at every moment is being measured and it all counts.
PPM Is Watching You Pee.
Which might be a welcomed thing if we had a tradition of developing and training our air talent to consistently deliver desirable content.
Instead, it’s largely demoralizing because we’re seeing that our “wing it” approach to most non-music elements is more likely to REDUCE listenership.
So – we’re looking at everything we do thru the EARS of PPM.
Do we need to identify the station at EVERY segue?
Do promos need to be :40 seconds?
Do our Disc Jockey’s have a real reason to open the mic – or is it just some old school habit?
Is it really worth playing an unfamiliar track? A B-side etc….
Certainly re-examining these things with PPM ears is important. I’ve always been an advocate of challenging conventional wisdom. PPM does help us with that.
My original excitement with PPM is that it changes the game.
The old game was fun – but it got boring to me. Everything was already figured out. There was no more exploration to be done. Change was almost impossible to achieve because “the way it works” (arbitron diary games) had already been figured out.
The rewards for status quo maintenance were far higher than for taking risks and trying new things.
With PPM, I sense we have a new guide to help us make radio more humane. More personal. More relatable and more responsive. To change it for the better.
I believe we finally have a tool that will reward us for daring and doing big things on the radio. PPM has proven great at measuring events. This should be a great inspiration for radio makers.
Instead – it appears the other side to the PPM coin; the fear based “tune out avoidance” meme is getting far more play.
And why not. It’s easier. It’s cheaper.
But it’s also the least forward looking, laziest, path of least resistance approach we can take. It will eventually lead us into a corner from which we will not be prepared to escape.
My fear – in our effort to shave potential tune-outs across our presentation – is that we ignore our responsibility of ADDING new value.
The result of our present approach will be to reduce our stations to little more than a streaming music service.
But with 12+ commercials an hour.
And no song skip.
And No “favorite”, “customize” or interactive functionality.
I’m not sure what it will take for us to approach what we do differently.
I don’t expect it will happen industry wide.
But courage is certainly going to a necessary trait. And until one of us steps up, tries something different and wins – business as usual (PPMIWYP) – no matter how stale or ineffective the results will continue to be the “prevailing wisdom”.