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Will We Allow Pandora To Take Over The World?


By Dave Hill
Now that we publicly called out Nielsen about the L.A. ratings debacle -- where two households needed to be extracted from the sample with data that had already been released -- whats next? The point has been made that ratings can be swayed by a couple of heavy-use households. What about the public opinion that Pandora is going to take over the world? Two different things I know... but stay with me.

After my initial jumping around and pointing to the differential in the re-released L.A. Nielsen data, I started to think of what the aftermath might be. Then I thought maybe we are going about this the wrong way. When you speak to most station GMs, they will tell you we sell more than the ratings. That may be true in some instances but if that was really the case you would not see people freaking out because the PPM data slides down in double-digits over a couple of months. Have no doubt about this: What we are doing is selling ratings. What we should be doing is selling the influence we have over our fans. The problem is the looming fact that we have failed in adequately measuring the influence factor we have over people.

Over the past couple of decades, the ability for an advertiser to reach a larger audience has become much easier. Of that increased audience, some of them want to be sold, some dont. I would imagine if you ask the audience, most of them would tell you they have limited or no loyalty to much of the advertising that is out there.

This seems like a good place and time to introduce the influence factor. You will have to dig deep into the new-media landscape to find the brand loyalty that radio gets. Radio is overlooked every day in the mad dash to reach more people. 

That loyalty is the overlooked key for advertisers. You think we are in trouble? Consider the fact that, if you are Pandora, you are completely devoid of personality. You certainly dont see people going to buy a car because the Led Zeppelin station algorithm told them what a great car it is. Its the dirty secret that people get bored with Pandora and is a good example of pedestrian advertising. What Pandora wants is brand but they dont have the personality to do it. As soon as the marketing directors figure out there is no loyalty or influence involved in Pandora, watch them put down the shiny new toy and start to seek out true influences. That is our opportunity, and we had better be ready to prove ourselves when that happens.

But how do you gauge influence? And what are we doing as an industry to find the answer to this riddle? We need to go beyond reach and frequency and figure out how we can assess the influence of our brand loyalty.

Nielson may be making an attempt with the introduction of buying patterns linked to station exposure, but that is not enough. We need to figure out the metric issue of passion and influence, and then we win. Im just pointing out the problem. Its up to us as an industry to figure out how to fix it.

Dave Hill is the Program Director for WBAL-AM & WIYY-FM (98Rock), Baltimore.
He can be reached at and on Twitter @Radiodave98

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