Buying RADAR Radio
The problem is that you can't buy an ad schedule on most of these networks. Some are day part networks, which operate only in drive time or on weekends. Others are demographic constructs, with stations added or dropped so buyers can be offered 10-20 spots per week with a specific demographic skew and reach.
Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks, based in Sherman Oaks, California, is a leader in creating these networks. Since RADAR 75 was released in December it has created four new networks - Premiere MediaBase, Premiere Evening, Premiere Weekday Tracks and Premiere Evening Tracks.
MediaBase launched as the seventh-leading network, with 4.278 million listeners. But it's really a music research service stations subscribe to that offers one RADAR ad unit each day, said Premiere's senior vice president and director of research, Len Platt.
"Limited inventory networks have been how more network companies have gone over the last 3-4 years. You get better stations that way," he said.
For instance, Platt said, after the last RADAR book in December, "we did a complete analysis of demographic skew and shifted stations" so the Premiere Pearl network would be 60% female. "We also did that with a network targeted toward youth. We would prefer more firm targets."
But these specialty networks make the overall numbers a little misleading, said Dr. Tom Evans, senior vice president of research at ABC Radio Networks in New York. If you can only buy one ad on a network per day, a high number may not be worth much to a buyer.
"The real story is consistency," Evans said.
"Almost 9 of 10 people who listen to the radio in the average week listen to a network-affiliated station, and radio reaches 94% of all people. Network radio gives you that reach," he said.
ABC's largest full time network, Prime Reach, delivered "just" 3.855 million listeners in RADAR 76, Evans added, but you can buy that audience 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
"With a full network, you can sell more spots," Evans said. "You can get more frequency. And you get more reach as you add more spots."
But with a day part or targeted network, you hit the market you're aiming for, said Platt. "We've been focusing this way since we got involved in RADAR back in 1998."
While the network numbers may be misleading, however, Evans added that the RADAR methodology definitely is not misleading. RADAR cross-tabulates diary data on listening with station clearances of ads. If the ad didn't clear, the listeners aren't counted.
So unlike TV ratings or even magazine subscription numbers, "you're seeing the number of people who were exposed to your ad," said Evans. Buying RADAR radio is comparable to buying Internet, he concluded, because the RADAR numbers are created in this way.