The question we raised in our headlines Tuesday launched a day-long discussion about how many commercials is too many commercials to play every hour. Let’s keep the conversation going today. If you missed our story yesterday, here it is again. Please leave your comments below.
It’s a question the radio industry has been battling for many years, but never really has addressed in a serious way, despite study after study where listeners complain about the commercial clutter. The pressure to sell more is as great as its ever been. However no matter how much you sell there are only 60 minutes in an hour, and listeners are turned off by the clutter. So how many spots is too many? Let’s find out what Dan Mason thinks.
The answer to that question, according to former CBS Radio President Dan Mason, is no more than 8 to 10 spots per hour. And, radio managers know the majority of radio stations today play way more than that. At Radio Ink’s Hispanic Radio Conference last week, Mason said with competition from streamers like Pandora, Spotify and others radio should be playing 8 to 10 units per hour. “And that’s controversial because I’m sure (CBS Executive Vice President for Programming) Chris Oliviero will call me and say “Where were you? Because we tried to get you to do that a long time ago.”
Mason told the Radio Ink audience last week that he’s not telling them how to do it, because, he says he doesn’t know how. “I’m just telling you that’s reality. Keep in mind that when FM radio came about, we were going up against AM radio. AM radio stations were fat, dumb and happy. They were making a fortune. They were running 16 to 17 minutes an hour of commercials. They were printing money in the back room. All of sudden, this thing called FM comes along and they were probably running 6 to 8 minutes an hour and listeners were like “Wow. What just happened here? I heard more music instead of all of these commercials over and over and over.” And, Mason says over time that number of commercials crept up. and now stations are running 14, 16, 15, units every hour and it’s probably too much.”
And, as for the debate over 30’s or 60’s, Mason says that doesn’t really matter. “I used to fight with our program directors all the time and say “It doesn’t make any difference. It’s time out of music.” You could play that game and think that your listeners are noticing “Oh, they ran a 30. Oh, it’s a 60. That’s really two commercials.” In my opinion, they don’t care. It’s time out of music. So it’s minutes, minutes, minutes. We used to sell just minutes back in maybe the late 70s. But the truth is, you’ve got to be more flexible. Program directors have to be more flexible. Because you’ve got to sell 30’s too. And you’ve got to sell 15’s. And you’ve got to sell 10’s. Because if there are clients out there that want to spend money, you’ve got to let your radio station take it. You have to expand your client base, because those same people that are buying 10s and 15s, if they’re successful, some day they are going to be buying 60s from you. So, you owe it to your radio station to begin to be part of developing that client base for yourself.”
In our latest Podcast, to be posted today, you’ll hear from an ad agency out of Kansas City that spends a lot of money with radio. There biggest problem with the industry — too much clutter. They do not want there clients getting buried and lost in an 10 to 12 unit commercial pod. Would they pay more for a commercial if you played fewer commercials every hour? You’ll have to tune in and listen to what they have to say.