National Contests: Budget Friendly or Habit Forming?

August 3, 2020

2,500 years ago Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

In the context of national contesting, he might have said, “the unexamined contest is not worth funding.”

The relentless competition for ratings and revenue requires that programmers step up their game each and every quarter, whether you’re executing national contests or competing against them.

When it comes to “text-to-win” national contests, despite overall contest entries holding steady quarter to quarter, it’s an insight that can cultivate a false sense of security.

More than 50% of players disappear from one contest to the next including the most valuable.

Your ability to engage and retain the Heavy Players who text-in weekly and the Super-Heavy Players who participate daily is critical to your overall ratings growth.

At its core, radio listening is built on daily habit formation, which makes daily cume such an important metric.

As a result, stations aren’t just driving tune-in, you’re in the habit formation and cultivation business.

When it comes to habitual listening, there are three essential ingredients.


Back in March, radio had a front row seat to witness what happens to listening when a primary trigger is removed – the daily commute.

According to research recently featured in Marketing Week, “Habits normally need a cue: that is a time, place or mood that triggers the behaviour.”

Between in-car and at-work consumption, there’s ample evidence that validates the importance of time and place as it relates to habitual consumption.

What’s not as well-known is the impact that can be generated by getting someone to think through their schedule and commit in advance to their listening behavior.

It’s been identified as implementation-intention and it has been shown to increase habit formation by 160%.

Even with the best-quarter hour by quarter-hour ratings analysis, it doesn’t mean your target listener won’t be away from the radio, sitting in a weekly staff meeting at the moment of truth.

That is why it’s so valuable to get your current and future listeners thinking about where radio in general and your station in particular fits into their day.

When you identify your anonymous contest players by name/address and invite them to declare their intent to listen, you are utilizing a proven strategy to leverage your marketing and accelerate habit formation by generating more listening occasions.

Variable Rewards

Every time a DJ says, “Caller 10 Wins” – the phone lines light up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $25 gift card to a chain restaurant or front row tickets to a sold out show. That’s the power of variable rewards and it increases habit formation by 63%.

It’s also why our Surprise & Delight touch points generate such a powerful response from listeners on social media.


If you’ve ever heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit, especially popular on self-improvement blogs and in fitness circles, that would be incorrect.

Research indicates it takes 66 days on average (8-10 weeks) for people to form a new, lasting habit. It’s not about short bursts of activity, it’s about sustained repetition hence the phrase, “Lather, Rinse, Repeat.”

The ability to develop a repeatable process that creates habit formation paired with a relentless focus on building relationships with those High Impact Listeners who have the most listening to give is a powerful combination that allows our clients to create and maximize a competitive advantage with ratings and revenue.

As listening continues to recover and parents adjust to the start of a new school year, let’s examine the strategic role of habit formation in your on-air messaging, contesting and station marketing.

Cultivation of listening habits by those with the most listening to give is not a task to be completed, but rather a relentless pursuit.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Back to Work: Morning Drive Set to Accelerate

July 8, 2020

Charles Darwin said, “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.”

Imagine if Darwin had access to a radio back in the 1800’s … his favorite station along with a strategic marketing partner would have made him a heavy listener as he worked all day in his lab.

Although the godfather of evolution pre-dates Marconi, as commuters return to work, they can thank Darwin for a modern office amenity, the office chair. In the 1840’s he added wheels to his chair so it was easier to move around his lab.

As mid-day listening levels lead radio’s recovery, it’s a great opportunity to maximize at work listening, while accelerating the growth of morning drive.

When it comes to your station’s marketing in the current environment, a compelling value proposition and a specific call to action are essential.

This powerful combination has long been important, but it becomes even more significant as you seek to increase daily cume with your High Value Audiences.

COVID-19 requires you as a leader to make decisions with imperfect and constantly evolving information. One of your greatest challenges involves knowing when to give the green light.

According to a recent article in Fast Company, “people tend to defer a choice when the future is hard to predict.” Waiting however, also comes with a cost, especially as your competition moves forward and captures share of voice.

As you evaluate and forecast the recovery of ratings and revenue, create a decision tree to help map out the risks and benefits of taking action vs. deferring. The process provides a balanced perspective, which will help you prioritize the decisions necessary to keep moving forward, while also identifying the things that can wait.

One thing that can’t wait is the recovery of morning drive. Fortunately, help is on the way.

Back to school will literally and figuratively look like nothing we’ve ever seen before. However, with students back on campus and households in motion earlier, it will provide a much needed spark to morning drive.

The question becomes, how to maximize the growth of morning drive listening against the existing strength of mid-days and afternoon drive with the available budget.

A decision tree can help evaluate and prioritize your investment, while ensuring a strong value proposition and clear call to action are being offered in order to grow daily cume.

We stand ready to discuss the current performance of each day part to ensure you’re able to maximize the ongoing recovery of listening and revenue.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Pumping the Brakes on Multi-Platform Streaming with a Focus on Winning Now

June 8, 2020


Every time you unplug a Tesla and get behind the wheel, you get a glimpse of the future. Whether it’s the car’s ability to drive itself or the variety of offerings built into the in-car entertainment platform that makes CarPlay look likes child’s play.

This perspective is not offered as a testimonial, Elon’s doing just fine on his own, but to demonstrate a clear understanding of how important a multi-platform future is for radio. After all, for all the gadgets and amazing features in a new Tesla, there’s no AM radio anywhere to be found.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused radio to confront a disappointing reality about consumption across devices.

When it comes to measured listening from smart speakers and smart phones, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.

The exact reasons can be adjudicated later, but there will be an opportunity to understand why radio’s decade long effort to aggressively promote listening across smart devices has not been embraced by more listeners.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of radio consumption measured in the ratings, still happens on an actual radio. By the time 2025 or 2030 rolls around, that might not still be the case, but it’s true today.

As a result, as you’re preparing to navigate Q3/Q4 and begin looking ahead to 2021 with an even greater focus on ratings and revenue, ask yourself a series of questions.

As spending increases, what percent of your overall revenue will come from on-air inventory?

What percent of your measured listening comes from your stream?

If 90% of your A25-54 AQH Ratings in Prime comes from listening to a radio, while 90% of your on-air promos focus on a combination of app downloads, podcasts, smart speaker skills and online listening, there’s an opportunity to create better alignment and invite your listeners to specifically keep listening to your station on an actual radio.

In terms of your heavy P1s, the panelists who show up on your monthly CPR reports, they listen between 1-4 hours per day. That means they are still missing 80-90% of your daily content. Your competition’s P1s (your P2s and P3s) are missing 95% of what you’re doing each day.

When it comes to your social media and email newsletters, what percent of your content is highlighting the “Can’t Miss Moments” that are happening on-air along with allowing listeners to get to know your talent?

This is the content you own and can aggressively monetize, while most station newsletters are geared toward celebrity news along with podcast and streaming/app promos.

If you can read a couple of your email newsletters or scroll through your social feeds without seeing an invitation/reminder to listen on a real radio, there’s another opportunity to create better alignment with the consumption that matters most.

By consistently highlighting your best on-air content, building connections with your talent and inviting/reminding people to keep turning on the radio, it creates a flywheel that builds momentum and drives daily cume as heavy listeners resume their commutes.

With COVID-19, stations need to marshal their limited resources and focus on increasing the number of heavy listeners who matter most to ratings and revenue.

We can no longer afford to take listening occasions on actual radios for granted when it comes to the allocation of on-air promotional inventory.

This certainly is not suggesting radio retreat to an earlier time that no longer exists.

Just the opposite. By aggressively rebuilding listening now and improving your rank position and revenue, you’ll be in a stronger position to win the multi-platform future.

As the flight attendant says before every flight, “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”

As radio’s “plane” levels off and starts regaining altitude, let’s be certain we’ve put the oxygen mask on the right passenger first, which will accelerate the recovery of on-air ratings and revenue, enabling our industry to get back to a multi-platform future that stations have been focusing on since the Great Recession.

As you look to maximize your station marketing, re-align your internal resources with the biggest opportunities to drive ratings and revenue. From there, we can grow your daily cume and deliver a clear ROI by efficiently focusing your external resources on the heavy listeners who matter most.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO