Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Steve Dahl delivers winning numbers on an otherwise all but dead radio station. Congrats and kudos to Steve who posted another fine performance in the Chicago summer book. He won against all odds.

Steve's achievement is especially remarkable when you examine the numbers in context. 25-54 adults - Steve ranks #8, WCKG ranks #26 overall. In the target, 25-54 men, Steve ranks #6, WCKG ranks #21 overall. These ranks are based on cume, and measure actual weekly reach.

Reviewing the other dayparts:

Morning drive - 25-54 adults #35, down 81% from a year ago. 25-54 men #29, down 80% from a year ago.

Middays - 25-54 adults #25, down 36% from a year ago. 25-54 men #23, down 40% from a year ago.

Evenings - 25-54 adults #26, down 40% from a year ago. 25-54 men #15, down 28% from a year ago.

The simple facts are Steve outperforms the radio station and outperforms every daypart. It is fair to say that his is the only successful program on the radio station. Moreover, without Steve there would be no radio station. It is as if, for now, Steve presides over one of Chicago's long time favorite restaurants with the unexpected burden of being located in a once tony neighborhood gone bad (gratuitous restaurant/food analogy). Spoken word FM is a format of unprecedented potential but it is, by nature, talent driven. In WCKG's case one person really has made a radio station but that's not a wise business move. Further, it's a very poor long term bet. Clearly, the failure at WCKG is one of imagination. The good news is it's radio, it can be fixed and WCKG can still become one of the most successful stations in the market and in the nation. What's needed to make that happen is leadership.

LATER: Lots of emails about WCKG and Steve Dahl. I'll address the most frequently asked subject - why cume rather than AQH rating? Please allow me to preface. It's a summer book. The quarterly report of least importance (in buying). Cume is the base data, the foundation, of all other estimates. It is cume that provides an indication of what happened in AQH. For example it helps us understand the construction and composition of listening - were more folks listening less or were fewer folks listening longer or were about the same number of listeners listening in about the same way? The actual number of listeners can decline at the same time your AQH estimate increases. It is also possible, given share compression, for a stations AQH share to fall as the station's rank position improves. The single most important programming estimate is cume, reach. When stations or programs first begin to fail one sees a pattern of decline in occasions and time spent per occasion. During this decline in time spent cume may appear to remain stable. The tipping point is cume loss. When listeners go away after first listening less and less. When the person who listened five days a week cuts listening to one day a week the cume remains the same. Therefore, it is important to understand the relationships of cume to occasions and to time spent per occasion. Cume loss is fatal. Stable or growing cume is always favored as it permits cume to be "managed." What other estimates would give us a fuller understanding of what is and what is not happening at WCKG? Occasions, time spent per occasion and mutually exclusive cume for starters. In the context of at least five data points we could begin to develop a working hypothesis, we could start to understand what's going on inside the AQH estimates. It is reasonable, using only the cume estimates at hand, to suggest that Steve Dahl enjoys a loyal following. Moreover, his performance is exceptional because he is not given the advantage of other successful programs on the station, the benefit of so-called audience flow. That is, he is probably creating his audience practically from scratch each day. A bunch of email about my comment that Steve was the station. For the record, about 71% of the station's total weekly target audience delivery happened during Steve's Monday thru Friday show (Summer est). All the more reason to applaud his performance and to get busy fixing the station. I hope this helps you to understand my use and preference for cume estimates in creating a "first look" at what happened with one station in the summer book.

Jamie Diamond is a rock star so why is this happening? Our retail store is changing banks to JP Morgan Chase for two reasons. First, Jamie Diamond. Jamie is one of the very best minds in the banking trade. Second, my employer, the professional services firm, banks there and we love it. But so far our "retail" experience has been a chocolate mess. It took weeks to get a sales person from the bank to come in to sign us up and we were begging to give them our account. Now we find out we need to pay hundreds for new credit transaction hardware. JP Morgan Chase is not yet small retailer ready or so it seems. We'll give our new salesperson another week then we'll move up the food chain. I'm still betting on Jamie - someone up the line will get it. Stay tuned.

Just got the email from Lawrence Lessig. Larry announcing the official start to the second annual Creative Commons fund raising campaign. Larry writes...

"Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation, dedicated to making it simpler for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. We provide free licenses that mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share the work, or remix the work, or both share and remix the work, as the author chooses."

Please join me and make a contribution to Larry's good and important work. Learn more here, donate here. Good luck Larry, and thanks for the update!


Anonymous said...


Long time reader, first time commenter.
Two comments.
Thanks for the insight into CKG. Like others the only info I saw was a second 12+ of 0.9 - the daypart data brings needed detail to the CKG wreck.
Thanks too for the good words about Mike Phillips. Mike was a class act and a brilliant radio man.

Anonymous said...

Dave, any reason you are using cume stats rather than qh? What makes you so certain CBS can fix CKG? With all due respect they lack a track record not only in Chicago but other places like New York. Love your blog. Cheers. Anne

David Martin said...

Thank you for your comments. 12+ numbers, esp AQH shares, provide one measure of performance but not enough to understand what is or what is not happening. I guess my instincts as a programmer direct me to first examine cume persons. Cume persons are the most stable of numbers and they are the most "pure" the only moving part being weighting. Regarding the ability of CBS to "fix" Chicago and for that matter their other FREE FM properties - my sense is the problems are so deep, so obvious and so embarrassing they can no longer be denied. CBS needs these assets to perform, my suggestion is they will take those steps needed to make FREE FM a productive franchise. There is nothing wrong with the notion of spoken word on FM, the problems CBS is having are strictly related to execution and a massive failure of imagination.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving more detail on the WCKG ratings story. One beef with the press and that includes trade press is the rush to judgment. Using nothing but 12+ numbers stations are declared winners or losers. Your post about Steve Dahl is a good example. It is possible for one show to bring home the bacon while the station as a whole sucks. Your preference for giving CBS a more than deserved break shows again - sorry but you might be betting on the wrong horse. btw, are you opposed to using aqh rating data? After all, those are the only numbers that matter when it comes to producing spots and dots cash. Blog on Dave! Sydney

David Martin said...

Sydney thank you for the post. I understand your point about 12+ numbers however in my experience it depends on the writer. There are a few writers that get it and understand 12+ is but one measure, those are the writers that do their homework and have a good working knowledge of the biz (I admire and respect Robert Feder as one of those few writers). Too many others writing for the public and the trade don't have a basic understanding of ratings research, they honor the bigger numbers because they know no better. My comments about CBS are my opinions and, may I add, are fair; sorry that you and others continue to feel I somehow favor CBS without any good reason. I am sensitive to the critical importance of AQH ratings data in the transactional sales process. I am not able to use ratings to discover what happened in the book. Moreover, I am very aware that Arbitron, correctly, enforces their copyright protection of aqh ratings data and respect safe guarding data used in the selling arena.