This video explains how media consumers are being targeted today. Which one of these groups do you belong to?

Programming a radio station is hard. You can’t see your audience and you only hear from them in two ways: when they complain about something and when the ratings come out every quarter (or every year in some markets). Much research is required to understand the constantly shifting needs, wants, wishes, and demands of your audience.

As a former program director, I can attest to the gargantuan nature of trying to please as many listeners as possible as often as possible for as long as possible, 24/7/365. It’s part art, part science, part voodoo. The trick is figuring out the ratio of all the ingredients that go into a successful radio station within your budgetary restraints, the always-changing musical trends, and a boss who needs to hit his/her revenue targets every month. And it all comes down to understanding who your audience is and how to attract more listeners.

Without getting too far into the weeds, one of the ways radio programmers (and content providers in general) work at attracting and pleasing and audience is to create what we call “lifestyle groups.” These are broad yet well-researched categorizations of consumers of media that help programmers fine-tune their offerings.

Lee Abrams is legendary in radio circles as a programmer who helped codify (for better or worse) how radio stations can better reach their target audiences. For example, when XM Satellite radio first signed almost 20 years ago, they hired Abrams to help organize their channel selection.

In August (thanks for the tip, Bob Lefsetz), Lee posted this new chart on today’s media consumers. Where do you fit in?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “This video explains how media consumers are being targeted today. Which one of these groups do you belong to?

  • April 7, 2021 at 10:58 am

    The problem today, here in major markets in the States, is that programming a radio station became too EASY.

    Allow me to explain…

    1. We have something called PPM, for about 15 years now. It’s a device that did away with the old-school diaries. (Where people literally wrote down what they listened to and usually just blanketed their diary with I listened to this ONE station all the time.) Now this device tracks everything a person listens to… it essentially looks like a pager they clip on their belt or put in a pocket. (I think its still the same device.)

    PPM has created 2 problems. The first is the sample is too freakin’ small. Nobody wants to carry that thing, and they should be handing out tens of thousands of them in a major city with millions. They don’t. Why they haven’t made it a part of your cell phone and you’d get $2 off your Verizon bill every month is beyond me. (That used to be the argument for increasing the sample, but now they’d just see everyone is listening to podcasts and streaming music, I guess?)

    The 2nd problem with PPM is that it turned PD’s into squirrels. (Remember that scene from Seinfeld where Elaine compared a guy she liked with a squirrel? She wanted to move slow and not make any SUDDEN MOVEMENTS!!!!) PPM has given Program Directors minute by minute ratings monitoring. (I’m going by what I think I remember here, but let’s say if a NYC radio station had 7 monitors tuned in at ONE time that was a lot!)

    So, I’m the PD and I’m looking at yesterday’s breakouts. At 1:45pm 2 monitors tuned at at the same time! What were we doing at that time? Let’s say the jock was telling a music news story about an artist you play and he/she talked for a minute… they would be told to talk less. Let’s say at 1:45PM you were playing a song… that song now goes to RESEARCH (More on that in a minute.)

    I guess a better way to say it is this… Program Directors look at anybody still listening to the radio as a squirrel and they won’t make any sudden movements to scare them away. This is why you hear the same 100 songs or so over and over and over again. AND you don’t really hear jocks going on and on about music or funny stories or demonstrating any personality because you could lose a monitor. Granted, back in the day I could listen to Alan Cross read the liner notes of any album I like for HOURS… a lot of people in radio don’t have that charisma anymore, but it’s a shame the ones that do have been stifled.

    But this is a very important reason why radio sucks. A PD does not want to “take a risk” and lose a monitor EVER! So radio is like going to dinner and a movie with your mom, and she picked everything… even ordered for you and cut your food.

    2. RESEARCH! And this is the reason radio started sucking back in the 80s. Pretty much every song any radio station plays has been researched. Some asshole with a tape of 30 clips of songs will call people’s phones and say “wanna participate in a survey?” Then they’ll play each little clip and ask the person to rank the song on if they like it, hate it, think it’s fresh, or burnt out.

    When you hear that ONE song your favorite radio station plays over and over and over and over. It’s because it “tests well.” I’m gonna date myself here, but I like the Classic Hits radio station out of NYC when I need an 80s fix. They play Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” WAY TOO FREAKIN’ MUCH! It must test through the ROOF!!!!!!!!

    3. And Alan you forgot Social Media. PD’s can keep tabs on their audience through social media and to an extent texting contests. But I’ve just realized I wrote way too much here. Plus, Lee Abrams is a dinosaur. Beautiful man, met him a couple times, but satellite radio lives in a fantasyland. (That’s like another 1,000 words though.)

    So, in conclusion radio became EASY to program because you don’t have to do anything anymore. Just look at what is scaring people away and take it off the air. Look at what song isn’t burnt and throw it on 2 or 3 times a day. Easy peasey fresh and cheesy.


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