Radio Ratings: Higher Shares Are Driven By Daily Cume

Radio Ratings: Higher Shares Are Driven By Daily Cume

by Tracy Johnson

Broadcasters that want higher ratings (and who doesn’t?) often misunderstand the key to increased ratings. They create strategies designed to play The Ratings Game to put stations in the best position for success. But there are so many moving parts to the ratings process, they often get caught up in details that don’t add to growth. Where should attention be placed? The answer is simple: Daily Cume.

You already know what cume is. It’s short for “cumulative audience,” one of the two core components of the math of the ratings system. Cume is the total number of individuals that tune to a radio station at least once in a period of time. The common cume numbers are almost always quoted as Weekly Cume.

Weekly Cume is important, but Daily Cume is the key to increased ratings. Daily Cume, as you might guess, is the total number of unique listeners tuning in on a single day.

Here’s why it’s so important.

Daily Cume Drives Share

You’ve probably heard all the reasons why delivering occasions of listening (or tune in occasions) is the key to ratings gains. That’s true, of course. Convincing the existing audience to tune in more often increases Time Spent Listening (TSL). In fact, this is the most effective of the three ways to increase radio ratings.

But programmers often emphasize attracting more tune in occasions in the same time slot or the same day. That’s good, of course. But getting your audience back on more days provides more leverage.

The average listener tunes into a radio show far less than we think. The typical P1 listener (those who listen to your station more than any other) only listens about two days per week! That’s one reason Daily Cume tends to be so much smaller than Weekly Cume. Simply increasing tune in from two days per week to three could dramatically increase ratings.

Now consider this ratings data provided by Nielsen:

radio ratings data provided by Nielsen

Notice the fields highlighted in blue.

The top-performing stations (top 3) in a typical market receive 20% more daily tune-in occasions from their listeners (5.2 compared to 4.2). 20% is a significant advantage.

But a 300% advantage is even more impressive. And more important. The average station has a Daily Cume Rating of 3.2%. That means 3.2% of the market tunes into the average station on any given day. But look at the top tier stations. Their Daily Cume is 10.6% of a market’s listeners.

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There’s a 300% difference between the average station (3.2%) and the top performers (10.6%). Simply put, the top stations have triple the Daily Cume as the average station.

Converting Weekly Cume to Daily Cume may be the most important goal a programmer can have.

More Daily Cume Data

The average P1 listener tunes into your radio show just two days per week.Could that be possible? Three times the Daily Cume? Yes, it’s true. It’s dramatic. But there’s more information that reinforces the point.

But again: among all stations in the United States, the average P1 (first preference listener) tunes in a morning show just 2.3 days per week.

Does that blow you away? What about all those folks who call in each day and know everything that has been on the show for the past six months? And they come out to every promotion and appearance? How about them?

Sure, they may be 3, 4, or even 5 days per week listeners. But they’re a minute part of your audience base.

But this simply reinforces the point about the importance of Daily Cume. What if a radio show or station could increase Daily Cume to 3 or 4 days per week? Ratings would explode.

You don’t have to increase your overall cume. Nor do you need more listeners. Just get the ones you already have to come back on more days of the week.

That’s why increasing daily tune-in is the fastest way to double your ratings. And that’s exactly how it worked out for this station.

3 Ways to Increase Daily Cume

There are some things every station can do immediately to grow ratings.


Listeners are creatures of habit. They are available to listen every day at the same time. But we rarely promote content for the next day.

Horizontal teases are designed to promote what is happening tomorrow at this time. That can be a ratings gold mine because it encourages habitual listening and by extension, Daily Cume. Personalities must prepare in advance to promote in advance. We have some planning tools to help you with that.

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Download Show Prep Daily Planner

Lock-In Features

High profile daily features become mini-brands when managed properly. That includes locking them in at specific times each day. Building equity in Can’t-miss moments creates a reason to remember to come back every single day. Do this enough, and Daily Cume will rise.

Create Urgency

Being consistent is a good thing, but when consistency becomes routine, it is mind-numbing. Audiences begin to take you for granted. That reduces TOMA (top of mind awareness). And if the audience doesn’t think about you, they won’t remember to tune in. You become just another button on the dial.


The Ratings Game isn’t winner take all, but there’s a world of difference in top-performing stations and everyone else. Research proves that Daily Cume is a key ingredient. In fact, it may be the most important element that impacts a station’s success.

Maybe it’s time to invest a little more attention to it.

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