In the struggle to find extra AQH, many aspects of The Ratings Game are out of your control. But every station has a tremendous opportunity to grow morning show ratings if the show is good and the promo strategy is properly planned. The problem is it can be hard to know if your show is leading or lagging. Fortunately, there’s an easy tool that will help you know whether it’s time to consider a change or if the show is worth investing in a major ad campaign. Start by calculating a rating metric that reveals if your show is leading your station, barely hanging on, or just along for the ride.

Most of my work involves working with personalities to grow the fan base and increase ratings and revenue. The fastest way to do that is by converting the station’s overall audience into morning show listeners. So one of the first questions is, “What’s Your Number?”

Is Your Morning Show Leading Or Lagging? What’s Your Number?

Rating systems are severely flawed, and ratings analysis is a poor source of research, but this calculation is valuable because it shows the relative strength of your morning show against the station’s overall appeal. Ironically, most programmers have no idea what their number is.

The Number is the percentage of the total station audience who also listen to the morning show in a typical week. That’s it—a simple calculation. By the way, it’s fun to predict The Number before checking it out. Most estimates will be far off from the actual number.

Here’s how to calculate it:

Total station cume:  100,000

Morning show cume: 32,000

Percentage of cume that listens in the morning: 32%

The number is 32.

Here’s a graphic that demonstrates it:

In the example, 32% of the station’s audience listens to the morning show, and 9% listen at night. The number is interesting, but only useful when put in context.

What’s a Good Number?

These percentages seem low, don’t they? Most presume the number is much higher.  Many factors should be considered (number of stations in the market, competitive situation, etc.), but a general guideline is:

If Your Number Is Less than 20: The show needs major help. The lowest number I’ve seen is 17. Stations with a show under 20 should consider changes. If you believe in the show, don’t promote it until you fix it. Then, launch a campaign and measure growth. If the adjustments are effective, you should see this number rise. A score in this range doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know whether the morning show is leading or lagging.

If Your Number Is 20-25: The show has a lot of work to do, and is in trouble, but may have a fighting chance. Perhaps the only problem is a lack of awareness or promotion. Maybe they sound good but don’t do anything that stands out. Be cautious in promoting a show in this range aggressively. You have to be certain that you’re backing a future winner.

If Your Number Is 25-30: Shows can typically reach this range fairly easily because The Number is calculated only from an audience that likes something about the station. A show in this range suggests that the audience doesn’t dislike the personalities, but it has work to do. Realize that pushing this number to the next range is usually difficult and takes time.

If Your Number Is 30-40: This is the range you want to reach. A show reaching 30% of the station’s cume is a meaningful contributor and is promotable. Growing The Number from the low to high 30s is quite challenging, but you can promote the show with confidence.

If Your Number Is More Than 40: Congratulations. This is a high-performing morning show that is likely leading the station. If you’re not promoting it, you’re missing an opportunity. Promote it aggressively because the show is an audience magnet that can feed other time slots.

Interpreting The Number

Here are some tips when calculating your number:

Market Size: The percentages are not absolute. Smaller markets produce higher percentages because there are fewer stations and the calculation is a percentage, not raw numbers.

Monitor Competitors: Tracking your competitors and your own show(s) will help you better understand your position in the market. This can also balance the issue with higher percentages in smaller markets.

Demographics: The percentages listed are for the entire market (6-plus or 12-plus). You can calculate percentages for specific demographics, but realize that a narrower target typically raises all percentages. Don’t assume “My show is doing great” if the 25-34 female number is 40! Adjust the scale.

Track Over Time: Compensate for ratings fluctuations by calculating the number over a long period of time. A one-year (or six-month) rolling average stabilizes The Number and provides a better snapshot.

Trends: Similarly, watch monthly and quarterly trends in The Number to identify when shows are building momentum.

Confidence In The Number: Believe it or not, personalities that attract more than 1/3 of the total station cume are not as common as most radio pros believe. Share this information with talent. It’s sobering, and will immediately demonstrate the potential growth potential in harvesting station listeners.

Legendary Shows: It’s rare to see a show with a number over 50. The best I’ve seen is 63, and it was a long-term show in a small market. I once worked with a show in San Diego that reached 59% of the station’s cume, the best score I’ve seen in a large market.


Knowing your number will help you determine whether your morning show is leading or lagging. Knowing your number identifies both vulnerabilities and opportunities. Of course, it’s not the only criterion; subjective evaluation should be part of the decision-making process, too. But when you start with valid, measurable input, you can understand how to position, promote, and coach your show.

What’s your number? Is your morning show leading or lagging? Would you like to increase the percentage of cume that favors your morning show? That’s what we do at Tracy Johnson Media Group. Let us help you build a strategy to convert more of your cume to fans.

Subscribe to Receive the Latest Radio and Personality News