Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Within the past few weeks, Glenn Boeck has lost his home in several of the nation’s largest radio markets, including New York City. He was pulled from a Madison station a couple months ago, but the reason was different. More on that, later.
As any broadcaster will tell you, shows like Boeck’s live and die on ratings, and Boeck is dying. His tiresome schtick no longer amuses the masses. The other headline in this story is the waning audience for Rush Limbaugh, which has been the top-rated radio national radio program since 1991, but that’s changing.
A new way of measuring audience, called the portable people meter (PPM). It’s from Arbitron, the broadcast ratings company. The way radio (and TV) audiences were measured for decades was by people keeping “diaries” of their viewing or listening habits. So, it was really a memory test, and a popularity test. It’s why radio stations say their call letters about 15 times every hour. You need to remember what you’re listening to, to write it down. But around the turn of the century, a far more reliable way of measuring radio listening was devised, and it is in some ways similar to the way TV viewing is now measured: using a device attached to your TV that records which station you’re actually watching.
The PPM is a device about the size of a pager, and it “hears” which radio station you’re listening to and records the information. Not every radio market is measured that way – yet – but slowly Arbitron is putting portable people meters in every radio market. Madison will be a PPM market soon. The bigger the market, the sooner the PPM arrives. And what the PPM is telling radio stations and advertisers is that Boeck is failing badly. And Rush is nowhere near as popular as had been thought.
It’s heinously easy to “game” the system of dairy-keeping; people tend to write down stations and programs they don’t actually listen to. But the PPM can’t be gamed like that. It simply keeps track of the radio station you’re actually listening to, wherever you are.
Boeck has lost his gig in some really big radio markets in the past few weeks, because PPM data shows people simply aren’t tuning him in, and, in the radio biz, that means you’re gone. Stations that carry Rush Limbaugh are having their eyes opened in the PPM markets, discovering there’s a huge difference between “diary” reports and PPM data. Dairy-keepers apparently were reporting listening to Rush when they actually weren’t. Practically, what this means for radio stations that carry Rush in PPM markets, is that they can’t charge as much for ads in Rush’s show, because they’re delivering a smaller audience.
It’s not the “death of right-wing radio”, as some are saying. But as the PPM moves into more and more radio markets, we’re discovering that Rush doesn’t have nearly as big an audience as was once thought. Boeck’s antics that drew so many advertising boycotts were one thing when he had strong ratings, but now that his ratings have eroded, he’s going….going….gone in market after market.
As to Boeck’s demise in Madison….I don’t think it had anything to do with ratings. Boeck was on a station that for years has been at the bottom of the ratings in Madison, and Boeck’s show was dumped at the height of the capital protests against the Walker administration. Boeck’s show never fit with the lefty programming of the station, and it was probably a convenient time to show him the door.
Sean Hannity must be very nervous.
Posted by Tim Morrissey at 11:35 AM