Listeners Speak… Are We Listening?


(By Gary Berkowitz) As a radio professional, I’m sure you have often wondered what your listeners are really thinking about your station. Based on countless research studies and in-market focus groups, here are some of the most common points that come up with female AC listeners.

Title & Artist is a major benefit to the female listener. In focus group after group, when you bring up back-selling of music, all agree that it is very important and their favorite station does not always do it. We think they know all the songs. They disagree. In many cases, the listeners brought this up as a negative. They wonder why their favorite station does not tell them the songs played. Having this info on your website is a step in the right direction, but not what they really want, which is to hear it on the air. As always, this especially applies to newer and recurrent songs.

“Good chemistry” is #1 in AM Drive. When asked why they liked their favorite morning show a lot, the word “chemistry” came up time after time. The relationship of the players and the way they get along on the air is critical. Other important issues in the morning are “fun” shows (not to be confused with funny) as well as shows that they are “used to and comfortable with.”

Music is still important in the morning. As usual, listeners want it all. They want a show loaded with fun people having a good time, but they also want a lot of music. Please do not overlook the power and importance of music in the morning.

Local is more important than ever. It is amazing how aware people are of radio ownership. In some markets, they can name the commonly owned stations as well as where they are located. They are also more aware than ever of the use of voice tracking technology. In one market, they talked about the “former owners” who sold to a “conglomerate.” Stressing that you are live and local is a positive. Talking about local landmarks and knowing the area can have a positive effect. People see radio as a local, hometown media. One woman said how she liked it when the traffic reporter explained where the accident was by using business locations as reference points (“On the corner of Maple and Orchard Lake across from McDonald’s”).

Morning and night personalities are the best known. In most groups, listeners were very unsure of the midday and afternoon personalities. For stations that have their own love songs host, there is usually good familiarity.

With music: “More tempo and more contemporary” is what they want. Many ACs are finding out that they need more tempo and need to be more contemporary with their music. Please remember, more contemporary is not about playing more current, unfamiliar music. Think familiarity and recurrent here.

AC radio is a “safe haven” for women 35-54. Clean lyrics and G-rated content is still important to these women. No need to call the station “family friendly.” They say they know which stations follow this practice.

P1 Women like to play contests. The prize is not always as important as “the chance to win.” If they feel they have a chance to win, it is good. Prizes such as theatre tickets, weekend getaways, dinners at restaurants, and tickets to concerts are all good. “Entertaining contests” seem more important to many of these listeners versus the actual prize itself.

Stopping fewer times for spots is preferred. Most listeners like the two-stop clocks, but are aware that they will “pay for it” (their words) in the end. They do however feel it is better to stop less often even if it means more spots. The one common comment heard in market after market is they feel “all stations play too many commercials.”

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. Contact Gary at (248) 737-3727 or [email protected]


  1. Live Local. 3 commercial breaks an hour. :17, :37, :54. Max 4 minutes recorded :60 live going in, middle or last. Max spots per hour 14. Top and bottom of the hour revenue generaring studio sponsorships. Traffic and weather sponsorships. NO POLITICS. Always say what you play. Did I mention LIVE & LOCAL.

  2. Ask a hundred people what’s wrong with radio and they’ll tell you all the things Gary said. Ask a hundred people IF they actually listen to the radio and 80% will say rarely or never. For a client considering a radio buy I did precisely that over a three week period last summer–211 people. 102 people replied rarely, 84 said they don’t listen or listen to satellite radio only.

  3. To Lee Alan: yup, it’s really easy to complain about how stations are doing things the wrong way. So, now that you’ve told us what needs to be done, I challenge you to tell us HOW to do it. What is the “clever” way stations should run their spots? When you have one production person for five radio stations, who also does afternoon drive at one of the stations and is the “brand manager” for another, how do we get “riveting, or funny, or interesting, attention getting commercials?” Maybe it’s possible in a top 10 market if you’re an independent operator (jerry lee’s more FM in philly comes to mind, where they have production shifts that run 24 hours during the business week). But if you’re one of the many who work for the debt-ridden conglomerates on the skeleton staffs that have become the norm, how do you accomplish what you’re talking about?

    This dilemma goes well beyond the spot creation process. What you describe is impossible to accomplish unless the “cancer” that’s been eating away at our business is cured, and we get back to programming-driven broadcasting, rather than the finance-driven model we’ve been forced to work under since the early-mid 90’s. When that’s been fixed, then come talk to me about creating better spots.

  4. Two reasons for “all stations play too many commercials.”. First, no matter how many commercials there are, the stations are not clever in the way they are run. 7-8-9 in a row. Doesn’t help the station’s listenership and buries the advertiser. There’s a way to run them all, keep the listener and give the advertiser a shot at success. Second, the local commercials do not engage the audience. To the listener, commercials are nothing but a rude interruption of the reason they are listening. But run them the right way and engage the listener with riveting, or funny, or interesting, attention getting commercials and…….its time to stick around and turn up the volume. That takes creative talent and attention to programming ALL the content in the hour Sorry, but the only attention stations give to commercial is when they sell the time and send the bill.


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