Why Radio Should Focus On Winning Fans, Not P1s

Why Radio Should Focus On Winning Fans, Not P1s

by Tracy Johnson

Radio doesn’t have a problem with reach, or generating more P1s (first preference listeners). It has a problem winning fans.

In spite of increased distractions and competition, most consumers continue to check out over-the-air radio stations. The problem, as you already know, is time spent listening (TSL). Most stations understand this to some degree. They believe they need to recruit more P1 listening to drive TSL. But that’s a mistake.

P1s are not fans, and fans are not P1s. And P1s don’t necessarily deliver a lot more TSL.

TSL is driven by fans, not P1s. Winning fans one at a time.

In business, loyal listeners (fans) drive results. You probably know of the 80/20 rule, which claims 80% of revenues are driven by 20% of customers. Radio has become even more extreme. It’s now closer to just 10% of a station’s cumulative audience accounting for up to 90% of listening.

That’s a problem. But if programmers can figure out how to push this percentage higher, you’d have tremendous ratings growth.

Winning Fans One At A Time

Converting an individual from a casual relationship with a brand to being a loyal supporter is hard.

How many restaurants do you visit in the course of a year? A lot. It’s fun to try new places. You probably even return to a few on occasion.

But how often does a restaurant you’ve tried (a casual user) become a favorite, causing you return over and over, several times a month?

Not often. And most of us are more passionate about where and what we eat than what radio button they push. After all, they’re paying for a dining experience with hard earned money. Radio only costs their attention.

Yet most broadcasters continue wringing their hands about television ad budgets, billboards and marketing campaigns that have been slashed in the latest round of cuts.

I’m all for marketing and advertising. But as you can see, most stations don’t need more listeners. They need to convert those already tuning in.

Scale Your Audience By Winning Fans

Here’s some math on how valuable fan conversation can be.

  • Let’s say a station’s total audience reach is 100,000 people.
  • Combined, the cume listens to 400,000 quarter-hours per week.
  • 10% of that audience (10,000 fans) account for 90% of the TSL (quarter hours). That’s 360,000 quarter hours.
  • That means fans listen an average of 36 quarter hours per week, or about 9 hours.
  • The other 90% of your audience (90,000) accounts for just 40,000 quarter hours.

Note: Yes, I know the math is flawed. It’s impossible for the 90,000 people to listen for less than 1/2 a quarter hour per week, since ratings register either a full quarter hour or none. I’m showing this for demonstration purposes with the actual amount of listening, not measured listening (quarter hours).By the way, Nielsen reports that nearly 1/2 of all non-P1 listeners tune into stations for just 2.5 minutes.

What would happen to a station’s ratings if it could increase the fan base from 10% to just 15%?

  • 15,000 listeners spending an average of 36 quarter hours per week would result in 540,000 quarter hours.
  • The other 85% chip in at their same rate, adding 38,000 QH.
  • That’s a total of 578,000.
  • Total quarter hour increase is 44%.
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Imagine the explosion in ratings by driving the fan percentage to 20%.

How to Win Fans

Converting casual customers to loyal fans takes time, and can be costly. It’s also where marketing, advertising and contesting budgets should be invested.

Let’s assume you already have a healthy cume. Also assume the majority of the audience is not unhappy with the station brand.

That means growth will come from converting casual listeners and further feeding the reach with referrals from fans.

How do you do that?

Communicate With Your Audience

The easiest way to convert cume to fans is simple: Talk to them.

  • Stay in touch with fans and potential fans. This is why building a smart database is critical.
  • Reaching customers through social media and email should be an indispensable part of your marketing plan.

Of course, this is based on the assumption the listener is willing to open, read, listen to or watch your messaging. What you send is just as important (or more) than how often.

By the way, the subject line is the biggest factor that causes recipients to open the email. The content itself drives sharing. If you have nothing to say, don’t say anything. Predictable or useless messaging is a fan killer. It makes you seem boring.

So put some time and effort into messaging. Don’t use the email blast just as an additional commercial carrier. You’re killing a fan opportunity!

In everything you create, imagine the recipient telling you this:

Entertain me and I’ll give you my attention. Make me feel good and I’lll consider you a friend. Stand for something I believe in and I’ll give you my support. Make a difference and I’ll tell my friends.

This is the essence of customer bonding. And that’s at the heart of winning fans.

If you talk about yourself and why your brand or station benefits are better than your competitors’, the only people who notice will be your competitors.

But if you deliver the thrill of pleasure, the public will gather at your feet.

A Simple Example of Great Fan Marketing

Contemporary Christian station Life 102.5 in Madison does a great job with fan marketing in three notable ways.

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First, they regularly demonstrate to fans how they make a difference, changing lives and enriching the audience. Watch this video that shares a listener’s story:


Second, they go out of their way to show appreciation to their most loyal listeners, especially donors to their non-commercial station.

In addition to acknowledgement and frequent communication, the station showers fans with high quality gifts as a reward and “thank you”.

These gifts aren’t just stickers, key chains, pens and trinkets from the prize closet. Instead, they invest in classy, useful items like Yeti travel mugs. Each gift points back to the station, reinforcing reasons they are fans in the first place.

Check out this coffee mug that promotes the morning show’s (Dave & Candice) daily feature “The Impossible Question”.

At first, it looks like the gift is a high quality, heavy, plain black mug.

But fill it with a hot drink, and a clever pattern appears, promoting the feature.

Sure, it costs more than a cheap plastic mug. The budget won’t buy quite as many. But that’s okay. It has fan value.

And third, the station reaches the audience in multiple aspects of their lives. Candice (mornings) and Summer Shepard (Afternoon host) have started a book club, powered by a website, weekly podcast and closed Facebook Group.

It’s exploding because they’ve made it fun and easy to participate.

Life 102.5 knows their audience, primarily 35-plus women are looking for companionship, community and belonging.


Winning fans isn’t a tactic that can be thrown together today. It’s not a short-term campaign to spike ratings this quarter.

It’s a strategy for nurturing relationships that takes time. Invest time and resources in planning your future for recruiting a more loyal audience base.

Build a Community of Fans By Being the Underdog

Here’s the Math That Shows The Value of Fans to a Radio Station

How Chaos Theory Can Help Convert Cume to Fans

The Truth About Radio P1’s and Fans

The Incredible Power of Fans and Super Listeners


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