First Listen: Jack FM2

What if Jack FM were no longer “playing what we want” but “playing what you want?” If it were no longer built around pop/rock from the late ‘70s and ‘80s? If it were targeted to women under 30, instead of a roughly even gender mix for listeners in their mid-40s? If it played One Direction and Miley Cyrus, not Styx and Phil Collins?

It would be Jack FM2, the station launched by our friends at the U.K.’s OXIS Media on August 20. Jack FM2 is running a similar mix to Glide FM, the younger-skewing Mainstream AC it replaced, but with the feel of the market’s co-owned Jack FM. It’s also using Listener Driven Radio to let listeners vote on roughly 350 songs on the station’s website.

Jack FM2 is the sort of brand extension that would make sense in the U.S., particularly as time and a shifting radio landscape has made certain coalition formats more difficult. Do the ‘80s no longer fit on WPLJ New York’s Hot AC format? They’d sound great on a separately branded “WPLJ ‘80s,” for instance. PPM has made the ascription issues that made brand extensions scary a decade ago into a non-issue, but the concept is clearly less daunting in the home of BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, etc., as well as a number of digital radio brand extensions from the likes of Absolute Radio and Smooth FM.

It’s also a big change, in all the ways detailed above, from what made the Adult Hits format what it was—starting with Bob FM Winnipeg in 2002 and Vancouver’s Jack six months later. The “Playing What We Want” slogan was, in some ways, a red herring. The real motor of the format was playing the pop/rock hits of what was, at the time, an underserved era, but the slogan got the attention. At the time, rival stations in a number of markets tried to counterprogram with “playing what you want” to collective yawns. But now it’s an inside job.

The Adult Hits stations of the format’s mid-‘00s boom were hardly all of a piece, and the ratings proved it. But most were similar in era and playlist size (somewhere around 750-1,000 records). Since then, however, the surviving Adult Hits stations have become a lot more diffuse. Some, like Austin’s Bob, remain very successful with the traditional format approach. Some have responded to PPM era by cutting the library. Some are more Classic Rock-focused. Others, like Vancouver and Calgary’s Jacks have already dropped “playing what we want,” phased out the ‘70s, added recent music, and moved into the ‘80s/’90s/now position that Hot AC used to occupy before it went more current.

So Jack FM2 isn’t that far removed from where some Adult Hits stations wound up. And the imaging, presented here with a female voice, is clearly in keeping with the spirit of the original Jack: “We take complaints very seriously; all the way to the shredder”; “We’re playing what you want, and we really hope your taste in music is better than your taste in men”; “You get to choose the songs, don’t make us regret it”; and, of course, “Playing what you want — what you really, really want.” (The latter is delivered deadpan and not in the cadence of the Spice Girls.)

Glide FM was an equally intriguing attempt at doing a younger targeted soft AC. This station is built on a lot of the same music, but there’s more of a rhythmic pop component and a few more ‘80s titles. Here’s Jack FM2 just before 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday:

Bruno Mars, “When I Was Your Man”
Coldplay, “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”
Miley Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop”
Adele, “Rolling In The Deep”
Lumineers, “Ho Hey”
Aloe Blacc, “I Need A Dollar”
Selena Gomez, “Come And Get It”
Santana & Rob Thomas, “Smooth”
Lady Gaga, “The Edge Of Glory”
Emili Sandé, “Clown”
One Direction, “Best Song Ever”
Counting Crows & Vanessa Carlton, “Big Yellow Taxi”
Olly Murs, “Troublemaker”
Lana Del Rey, “Summertime Sadness”
Robbie Williams, “Candy”
Semisonic, “Closing Time”
Bastille, “Pompeii”

Classic Rock: Good News From The “Demographic Cliff”

It is a term heard a lot in Classic Rock these days: “the demographic cliff.” Any discussion of the state of the format is informed by the percentage of the audience that is 45-to-54-years-old, and by the listeners who have already crossed the line to 55-plus. A few weeks ago, for the first time, a Classic Rock GM remarked that some people considered his to be a “dying format.” And while he was expressing the sentiments of others, he didn’t rush to add, “Personally, I think they’re crazy.”

Concern about “the demographic cliff” has manifested itself in the continued rollout of second-generation Classic Rockers like Clear Channel’s “Brew” stations. And in the continued march by many Classic Rock stations into the grunge era—the music that was one considered to be a shot across Classic Rock’s bow. One recent evolution took place at Cox’s WSRV (The River) Atlanta, which added Pearl Jam and Lenny Kravitz to a station that had launched with a softer, older version of Classic Hits less than a decade ago.

The correct answer to the “age of the audience” question is never the one that GMs find helpful. Having an audience at the height of its earning potential and disposable income ought to buy the format some respite from the demographic concerns, but never has. So should having the audience that grew up most influenced by radio, and remains most under its sway. But agencies don’t accept that either and so neither do managers.

It also doesn’t help that Classic Rock has been multiply crowded in many markets. The longstanding research appeal of the format has often encouraged stations to try to create a hole for the format even where none exists. The format has also been crowded by:

• The advent, a decade ago, of the Adult Hits format – essentially “next gen” Classic Rock with a few pop records;

• The product crisis at Active Rock, where a lack of current music that matters has seen many stations effectively segue to “Classic Rock That Really Rocks”;

• Mainstream AC’s use of Classic Hits music. Many ACs are ditching the ‘70s altogether. For those stations that are still willing to acknowledge the decade, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac are the last ‘70s titles to go;

• The resurgence of the Oldies/Greatest Hits format which, as it modernizes moves closer to Classic Rock (or at least Classic Hits) than ever.

That Oldies resurgence also exposes another of Classic Rock’s underlying issues. If your allegiance to the music on Classic Rock radio was formed before 1979, you grew up with it either on a top 40 station or with an Album Rock format that hadn’t yet cleared the decks of singer-songwriters and progressive R&B acts. The narrowly defined “kickass rock ‘n’ roll” era of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s was still setting expectations for rock radio as Classic Rock coalesced as a format a few years later, but it was really a 4-5 year period during the 45-year lifespan of the music that Classic Rock plays.

The net effect is that the reason to choose ‘70s Classic Rock on a Classic Rock station, rather than an Oldies station—never having to hear Bill Withers or “December 1963”—isn’t as compelling now. Across the dial, other formats based on the thirty-year-old architecture of “this, but not that” are equally at risk now. The Urban AC listener who never wanted any kind of rap, and the Rhythmic Top 40 listener who wanted today’s hit music without the pop/rock songs, might still be out there. But those listeners’ nieces and nephews think of music differently and don’t share that usage.

With all these challenges, there is still ample good news for the format:

In Edison’s most recent format finder studies, Classic Rock is still often a format with the kind of broad appeal that managers want. These studies only include 25-54 or 18-54, and Classic Rock still typically shows the kind of preference that is typically too big to be driven by one ten-year cell.

Similarly, there are still consistently successful Classic Rock stations that are often top five in their market, despite the fragmentation. KZOK Seattle was the 6-plus market leader in July. If you were putting together a new radio group, you’d also be excited about a portfolio that includes WAXQ (Q104.3) New York, WZLX Boston, WMGK Philadelphia, KSLX Phoenix, KQRS Minneapolis, KGB San Diego, WZBA (the Bay) Baltimore, KSEG (the Eagle) Sacramento, or Atlanta’s WSRV, which has gone 5.2 – 6.5 – 6.3 since its adjustments.

Then there’s the 18-24 audience for Classic Rock which, in both Arbitron measurements and our station research, has gone far beyond the anecdotal. The young-end appeal of the format won’t be fully tested until that demo has viable guitar rock of its own, but it’s no less significant than the adult interest in top 40—which has, in the past, been cyclical as well. If listeners are now interested in the best available music, not just the music of their high-school years, we can work with that.

There is also encouragement in the ongoing success of the Oldies/Greatest Hits format, which came far closer to extinction a decade ago than Classic Rock will likely ever get. Oldies openly antagonized its base in a conspicuously unsuccessful bid for better demos. It took the advent of PPM to prove the continued viability of the format, but it now happily plays 42-year-old records for an audience that includes 32-year-old listeners.

The Greatest Hits format also proves that there’s no one correct answer on the era of a successful Classic Rock radio station. Many of Clear Channel’s stations have rebranded themselves as “oldies” and play somewhat more ‘60s than similar stations. But there are also stations like WDRC-FM Hartford and KOLA Riverside/San Bernardino that have successfully pushed into the ‘90s. I still rankle at hearing “Listen To Your Heart” by Roxette staged as a good time oldie, but I got over that same sensation with “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” and I’m sure this will be no different.

Classic Rock is still a great format if you can figure out how to be the mass-appeal Classic Rock station. For starters, that means targeting both men and women. As other formats laid claim to the poppier side of Classic Rock, many stations helped nudge that audience away by not researching women, allowing the music to drift harder, and letting the overall environment become more male. The advent of Adult Hits, with its nearly even male/female split, should have demonstrated the value of “women who rock;” instead it sent many Classic Rock stations in the other direction. But we know of successful Classic Rock stations that continued to research both genders, even before the advent of PPM.

Being the mass-appeal Classic Rock station also means looking for the strongest music of the Classic Rock era in a way that transcends listeners’ individual music histories. Grunge may work for the 35-year-old listener, but it’s very much the music of a specific generation. For the 25-year-old moving into the demo, the evidence is that Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd may be better. (As it happens, many of the “Brew” stations have gotten older musically since launching.)

The same goes for depth in any era. Classic Rock stations responded to Adult Hits by expanding their libraries, something that needs to be done judiciously when any depth means excluding a number of listeners who just weren’t there to hear those songs.

Finally, there’s the issue of managing internal expectations—something which nearly wiped out Oldies/Greatest Hits a decade ago. Classic Rock is, according to Arbitron’s Radio Today, enjoying its best ratings ever, even though the older audience is no longer automatically earmarked for gold-based formats. We ought to be able to work with that as well.

Beyond Country’s P1s

Edison Research’s Larry Rosin presented Beyond Country’s P1s at the Country Radio Seminar on February 22, 2012.

Watch the presentation slides:

View the presentation video:

Video Interviews

In addition to conducting a significant national quantitative study, our research team supplemented this work with a series of interviews with Country music fans. Video highlights of these interviews are presented below:

What do you love most about Country?

How long have you been listening to Country?

Old Country vs. New Country

Lyrics & Themes

What does Country music mean to you?

Country Crossover

“Twang”

How else do you listen to Country?

Radio Personalities

Parting Words for the Industry

How the study was conducted

Edison Research conducted a two-part study of Country music fans age 18-54. The first part was a national online survey of 1,024 Country fans. Sample was provided by Knowledge Networks. All survey respondents reported listening to Country radio or gave Country music a ‘4’ or ‘5’ on a 5-point scale. The demographics of our sample match the characteristics of Country fans nationwide by sex, age and race.  The second part of our research was a series of one-on-one interviews. These 32 in-person interviews were conducted in three markets: Hartford, Wichita, and Phoenix.  All participants reported listening to Country music. All interviews were conducted in the 4th quarter of 2011.

About Edison Research
Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information to radio stations, television stations, newspapers, cable networks, record labels, Internet companies and other media organizations. Edison Research is also the sole provider of election exit poll data for the six major news organizations: ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the Associated Press. Edison Research works with many of the largest American radio ownership groups, including Entercom, Clear Channel, Citadel, CBS Radio, Bonneville and Westwood One; and also conducts strategic and opinion research for a broad array of companies including Time Warner, Google, Yahoo!, Sony Music, the Voice of America, See Saw Networks and Zenithmedia. Edison Research has a seventeen year history of thought-leadership in media research, and has provided services to successful media properties in South America, Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe.

Edison Research Partners with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Edison Research today announced a partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to provide research on their annual Country Cares Radiothons and the impact of those Radiothons on radio stations and their listeners. Edison is providing its expertise on a pro bono basis in support of St. Jude.

“From the moment St. Jude came to us with their needs for research, we knew we wanted to be involved,” said Edison Research President, Larry Rosin. “It was only natural to translate our vast research experience in the Country radio industry into a benefit to St. Jude and their Country Cares radio partners. We are proud to support the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in this way.”

A series of studies are being conducted to measure the influence of the Radiothons on the community and listeners to partner stations.

The results will be presented at the Country Cares Seminar, the second largest gathering of country music professionals, outside the Country Radio Seminar, held in Nashville each year. The seminar is to be held January 12th – 15th 2012.

About Edison Research

Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information to radio stations, television stations, newspapers, cable networks, record labels, Internet companies and other media organizations. Edison Research is also the sole provider of election exit poll data for the six major news organizations: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and the Associated Press. Edison Research works with many of the largest American radio ownership groups, including Entercom, Clear Channel, Citadel, CBS Radio, Bonneville and Westwood One; and also conducts strategic and opinion research for a broad array of companies including Time Warner, Google, Yahoo!, Sony Music, the Voice of America, See Saw Networks and Zenithmedia. Edison Research has a seventeen year history of thought-leadership in media research, and has provided services to successful media properties in South America, Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe.

The Road Ahead: Media And Entertainment In The Car

In the face of a rapidly changing in-car landscape, broadcast radio dominates the choices for information and entertainment in the car, according to the new national survey from Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB), Edison Research, and Scarborough Research titled The Road Ahead: Media and Entertainment in the Car. At the same time, there is significant interest in the many new digital entertainment and information options for driving that are being developed every day. The Road Ahead was debuted this morning at The Radio Show, hosted by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Advertising Bureau in Chicago.

The Road Ahead, conducted in July 2011, looks at consumer usage of sixteen different in-car media and entertainment choices. The study also weighs consumer interest in newly introduced “telematics” features. Telematics technology enables a variety of applications that share data between the vehicle and information and entertainment networks.

The Road Ahead updates a similar study conducted in 2003, to provide a unique look at the changes and challenges in the in-car landscape over the past eight years, combined with a peek into the future of this crucial media space.

Key findings of The Road Ahead: Media and Entertainment in the Car:

  • AM/FM radio continues to be the top choice for in-car media and entertainment, with 84 percent of all drivers or passengers reporting use of AM/FM radio in-car — compared to the next highest device, the CD player, at 68 percent.
  • When share of time spent while driving is measured, AM/FM radio dominates with nearly two-thirds of all ‘in-car time’ (64 percent). The CD player is in second place at 21 percent; all other devices combined make up 15 percent.
  • While various digital options such as satellite radio and connecting one’s iPod to the car system remain rather small, they are growing and very well-loved by those who use them.
  • In-car AM/FM radio usage is strongest in the key buying demos it has long targeted, reaching nearly 90 percent of adults age 25 to 54.
  • One in four (24 percent) persons age 18 and older have used their iPod/MP3 player to listen to audio in their car; more than half (55 percent) of 18-24s have done so.
  • Six percent of persons age 18 and older and one in five persons aged 18 to 24 (19 percent) have listened to Pandora on their cell phone in the car.
  • There is a high level of interest in newly developed vehicle telematics. More than 60 percent say they are interested in accident response features, stolen vehicle recovery systems, parked vehicle tampering alerts, and remote car unlocking capability.
  • There is also significant consumer interest in several in-car media applications: 41 percent are interested in pause, rewind and replay functionality for radio in-car and 40 percent are interested in built-in wireless internet for the car.

Watch the presentation slides:

Video Interviews

In addition to conducting a significant national quantitative study, our research team supplemented this work with a series of interviews and observational research with in-car media consumers. Video highlights of these interviews are presented below:

On Smartphones:

On Satellite Radio:

On Telematics:

On The Internet-Enabled Car:

On The Future of Radio:

How the study was conducted

A total of 1,505 persons ages 18+ were interviewed in July 2011 to investigate Americans’ use of in-car media and information. The telephone interviews were conducted among previous Scarborough Research respondents age 18 and older chosen at random from a national sample.

About Edison Research
Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information to radio stations, television stations, newspapers, cable networks, record labels, Internet companies and other media organizations. Edison Research is also the sole provider of election exit poll data for the six major news organizations: ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the Associated Press. Edison Research works with many of the largest American radio ownership groups, including Entercom, Clear Channel, Citadel, CBS Radio, Bonneville and Westwood One; and also conducts strategic and opinion research for a broad array of companies including Time Warner, Google, Yahoo!, Sony Music, the Voice of America, See Saw Networks and Zenithmedia. Edison Research has a seventeen year history of thought-leadership in media research, and has provided services to successful media properties in South America, Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe.

About Arbitron
Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB) is an international media and marketing research firm serving the media–radio, television, cable and out-of-home; the mobile industry as well as advertising agencies and advertisers around the world. Arbitron’s businesses include: measuring network and local market radio audiences across the United States; surveying the retail, media and product patterns of U.S. consumers; providing mobile audience measurement and analytics in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia, and developing application software used for analyzing media audience and marketing information data. The Company has developed the Portable People Meter ™ (PPMTM) and the PPM 360™, new technologies for media and marketing research.

About Scarborough Research
Scarborough Research measures American life. Our consumer insights reflect shopping patterns, media usage across platforms, and lifestyle trends for adults. Media professionals and marketers use Scarborough Research insights to make smarter marketing/business decisions on things like ad placement, multicultural targeting, and sponsorship opportunities. The company’s core syndicated consumer insight studies in 77 Top Tier Markets, its Multi-Market Study and its national USA+ Study are Media Rating Council (MRC) accredited. Other products and services include Scarborough Mid Tier Local Market Studies, Hispanic Studies a! nd Custom Research Solutions. Scarborough Research measures 2,000 consumer categories and serves a broad client base that includes marketers, advertising agencies, print and electronic media (broadcast and cable television, radio stations), sports teams and leagues and out-of-home media companies. Surveying more than 210,000 adults annually, Scarborough is a joint venture between Arbitron Inc. and The Nielsen Company.

Portable People Meter™, PPM™ and PPM 360™ are marks of Arbitron Inc.