(By Marc Greenspan) Even after all these years, we have a hard time referring to Time Spent Listening (TSL) as Average Weekly Time Exposed (AWTE) in Portable People Meter (PPM) markets. We also seem to love those acronyms.
As The Ratings Experts, we have the benefit of looking at data from numerous markets in a variety of formats after every single survey. Over time we have developed some rough benchmarks on what constituted a healthy TSL for a station. These varied by format. For example, a sports station will generally have a higher TSL than a music station. That said, as a general rule in a 25-54 setting, if a station had more than two hours of weekly TSL, they were probably in good shape.
This number was affected by market conditions. What is the competitive format landscape? How does the ethnic composition impact listening? What is the target age range of the station? Yet, even with all those variables, we were able to establish some rough baselines.
COVID-19 changed those baselines though. Specifically, we have seen a dramatic decrease in market TSL. Before the pandemic, it was not unusual to see markets in the 9- to 11-hour TSL range for Adults 25-54. Now, it is not unusual to see market listening under 7 hours a week. Think about what that means. The AVERAGE radio listener in those markets is spending LESS than one hour a day with ALL radio. This trend is even more pronounced with the 18-24 and 25-34 demo cells.
The pandemic shutdown began in March 2020, and it caused TSL to crater. While we have seen it rebound, TSL is nowhere near 2019 levels. Take a minute to run a market listening report in Tapscan comparing your most recent survey with 2019. Chances are you will see a noticeable gap between the two surveys.
All of this has caused us to rethink our TSL standards. IF you can exceed that two-hour mark in today’s environment, then you are likely in a strong position.
Big caveat here: TSL is only one part of your Average Quarter Hour (AQH) number. Cume is the other factor. Sometimes a high TSL can be the result of a small but extremely loyal audience. Formats like Christian Contemporary come to mind here.
Whether you call it AWTE or TSL, how much time your audience spends with you is a key indicator of the health of your station. Keeping an eye on it for your station, your market, and your format can keep you ahead of the game.
This column is part of a series titled “Growing the Radio Pie.” To view past articles, visit The Ratings Experts at Research Director, Inc. online here.
Marc Greenspan is the CEO and founding partner of Research Director, Inc. He can be reached at 410-295-6619 x11 or by email at [email protected]. Research Director, Inc. offers consulting services to media companies to help them grow their audience, ratings, and revenue. Read Marc’s Radio Ink archives here.