The Difference Between “What” and “Why”

By David Kidd, BPR

Does a program director use the official ratings data to actually program their radio station?

Probably not.

The ratings data provides estimates of “what” radio listeners are listening to. It tells us who (age, gender), how many (the cume), how long they listen (TSL) and when (dayparts).

And yes…’s the industry scoreboard.

But the data doesn’t tell you anything about “why” people listen to specific radio stations.

As a PD, you are responsible for all content on the radio station.  It is your responsibility to find out what the listeners want so you can give it to them.

Pretty simple, isn’t it……find out what they want and give it to them!!!

The sales team is responsible for selling inventory on a radio station to advertisers.  The clients who advertise on a radio station are really only interested in how many listeners they reach with their ads.  In fact, that is why radio ratings were introduced in the first place…….to effectively price advertising.

Don’t get me wrong…..ratings data provides an indication of which radio formats are successful and which ones aren’t and which dayparts are successful and which ones aren’t, but that’s about all a PD will glean from the data…….it doesn’t give you the why behind the numbers, and that is what a successful PD needs.

The figures don’t tell you why your radio station (or daypart) is in that position.

Sure, it won’t stop people making incorrect assumptions based on ratings data or the promotions department taking credit for a ratings increase (“Yes obviously we went up because of the XYZ promotion we ran” …….yeh, a two week active promotion in a ten week survey that would have absolutely no impact on more than 80% of the diaries in that survey …..dream on!!).

Ratings information is a litmus test or a success “barometer” for PDs.  The data tell PDs if their programming is successful or not….but it doesn’t tell them what to do to become successful.  That comes from other sources.

Let me make this clear… is essential for a successful Program Director to understand the ratings data but it is even more important to understand what it can tell you and what it can’t. Know the limitations and don’t jump to conclusions.

The only way to know why your radio station or daypart is or is not successful is from your radio station’s strategic/perceptual research (the strength of the music position, the importance and perceptions about music styles, talent, music variety, news & information, promotions, etc).


That is the difference between “what” and “why”.



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