Your radio station is in a second-by-second, moment-by-moment battle for audience attention. It’s hard to earn attention, but it’s even more difficult to recapture it when listeners tune out. Consumers have less patience than ever, meaning they will leave faster. Since most people listen in the car (where it’s easiest to tune out), reducing the reasons for tune-out is more important than ever. Staying on top requires a keen understanding of your station’s content and what each competitor is doing. The Button-Punch Test is the simplest and perhaps most effective method of evaluating your station.

You are probably familiar with the concept. The Push-Button Test is designed to replicate the real-world listening experience, where listeners hop from station to station, especially during drive times. However, with most programmers stretched for time and attention, this evaluation is not used as much as it should. And when it is, the test is almost always shallow and subjective.

The Button-Punch Test

To implement the test:

  • Identify the stations your station shares the most content with. This is not about sharing cume, but about winning the battle between similar stations. There should be 3-5 stations you’re most concerned with.
  • Set up a spreadsheet to keep score. Evaluating from memory is unreliable. Determine how often you want to track the button-punch winners but commit to consistently doing it. For example, you could do it three times each hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., and 4 p.m. Then do it on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m. That’s a lot, but there’s a technology that makes it easy (see below). Within the hour, pick random times each day.
  • At each specific time, punch the button between all stations you monitor, noting which station’s programming is strongest. Don’t think too much. Focus on how it sounds and how it feels. Which station “wins?” Rank the stations from #1 to #5, then assign a score to each in your spreadsheet. The #1 station gets five points, #2 gets four, and so on.
  • Add calculations to the spreadsheet to add the scores. Now you can quickly see who is winning.

The hardest part is truly being objective. Every programmer thinks their programming is on point. For details on how to evaluate the test, go here.

How To Do It

This sounds like a lot of work. Tuning from station to station and logging what each station is doing takes time and this technique suggests a lot of matchups. Don’t worry about it. There’s a solution that only takes a couple of minutes for each button-punch test, and it’s even easier than pushing the buttons on your car radio.

AudioLogger is the world’s best audio logging system. You can log any radio station worldwide, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Set up an account with AudioLogger in a few seconds. Then, add the stations you want to monitor. Within a few hours, you’ll have access to all of the programming on those stations and be ready for the test.

The dashboard is the best part. It’s simple, fast, and intuitive. Switching from one station to another takes you to the exact same moment on that station. Monitoring five stations at three different times can be completed in less than 15 minutes daily.

Here’s a video of how easy it is to use. In this example, I’m checking out five stations at 11:03 a.m. on October 9, 2023:

I’ve checked in on five radio stations in less than two minutes. Of course, talk programming will take slightly longer to log, but you can see how easy it is to manage.

Benefits of The Push-Button Test

Knowing who wins a Push-Button Test is good data, but what will you do with it? Plenty.

Commercial Placement Problems: If a competitor plays an entertaining feature or hit song during your commercial break, they’ve scored. This can prompt you to rethink your stop set and clock construction strategy.

Recognizing Song Power: Playing average songs (Hey, that song is playable! It’s a solid “3”). That makes logical sense, but are you consistently losing to a competitor playing a massive hit? Maybe it’s a sign to tighten and refine your playlist.

Talking Too Much: Programmers often think we’re talking too much, but usually it’s subjective. This gives you a much better snapshot of how the audience hears it.


The Push-Button Music Test has been a powerful tool for decades, but now it’s easier with AudioLogger. For more information and to get started, check out The AudioLogger. And if you have questions about how it will work for you hit me up with an email. I’ll walk you through a demo and set you up with a trial if you want.

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