ZIPping Through the Data


(By Marc Greenspan) We recently ran across an article from the Christian Music Broadcasters that preached the value of using your ZIP codes – specifically, a station’s database. While this is a more stable data set than the Nielsen PPM panel, there are opportunities to use both databases to a station’s advantage.

The article outlines ways to impact sales, programming, promotions, and social media. We will leave the tactics to those in the trenches. We will also assume (yes, a dangerous word) that non-Christian stations are also maintaining robust databases. If someone has taken the time to give you their first-party information, you can reasonably conclude they are a fan of your brand.

But what about those listeners that are giving you quarter-hour love but are not part of your inner circle? How do you find them?

First, let’s get into some facts:

  • In diary-based markets, the ZIP codes change every week. When you see a hot ZIP code report after the book is released, you are viewing historic information. While it is likely Nielsen will revisit those ZIP codes in future surveys, this is not a guarantee. Nielsen bases their geographic placement on sampling units and not individual zip codes. They have to hit certain benchmarks at the county level, not at the zip code level. 
  • In PPM markets, the zip codes are more consistent. Households can remain a part of the panel for up to 24 months. The panel also turns over at around 8% every survey. (You can see exactly how much your panel has churned in your eBook.) What this means is that your hot zip codes in January are more than likely still there in February. Yes, that information is about a month old, but it remains the best available data.

So how do you find out where your listeners live?

If you subscribe to PD Advantage, you can run a report entitled “key zip codes.” This will show you a list of your top zip codes and what percentage they contribute to your total quarter hours. 

However, there are a couple of caveats to consider. First, these are unweighted quarter hours. What you see in this report might not match what you see in the book. Second, this is based on, per Nielsen, AT LEAST two full quarters of data. While the results are instructional, they are less actionable than more currently available data.

If you have access to Tapscan, you can run trenders and reports based on the individual counties in your metro. This is great information but yields a very broad look at where your listening is coming from.

One final caveat. These zip code reports are based on where the listener resides. They do not show you where your listeners actually, well, listen to your station. 

There is a more precise way to find out where your quarter hours are coming from. Contact us and we can show you how that works.

If you want to read the CMB article, click 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.


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