Beasley’s WCSX Detroit (94.7) is the top performing classic rock station in America, sister WMMR Philadelphia (93.3) is the top active/mainstream outlet and Entercom’s “The End” KNDD Seattle (107.7) takes the trophy among alternative stations. Nielsen examined fall 2018 ratings, Monday-Friday, 6a-7p, in the top 150 markets it measures to tab the top 10 for each of the three rock formats within their target demos. The results say a lot about which regions of the country till rock radio’s most fertile ground.
To arrive at the top 10, Nielsen broke up the top 150 metros into different groupings, such as top 20, markets 21-40, etc. This allowed it to evaluate ratings performance for comparably sized markets so the list didn't favor smaller markets, where shares are typically larger. “If we just ranked stations on straight-up share, you would see smaller market stations leading the list,” Nielsen VP of Audience Insights Jon Miller explained last week in a webinar. “We wanted to get a flavor of who is out-performing their competitors and their contemporaries in similar-sized markets.”
Mapping out the top performers shows a heavy concentration in the Midwest. Three Midwestern rock hubs contributed two stations apiece to the lists: Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Tulsa. There’s also a concentration in the Northeast in New York, Pennsylvania and New England.
What, exactly, does it take to become a top performer? And more importantly, what can other stations learn from these 30 elite rockers? Nielsen examined the audience metrics that set the top performers apart. It found that top performers in classic rock, alternative and active/mainstream each got average listeners in their target demo to tune in three days per week. This speaks to the importance of getting the audience to make your station part of their daily habits. However, that a station can be a top performer with just three days a week also underscores the extent of audience fragmentation. “There are many different ways and platforms to get your rock music,” Miller offered. “Radio is one of them and still really important. But if you wound the clock back 5-10 years, those numbers would be higher because there's simply more places to go nowadays.”
Another critical metric is weekly cume ratings, which refers to the percentage of the market population reached by the station in an average week. Top performing classic rockers reached 25% of their market’s 25-54 population, top alternatives reached 18% of 18-49 year-olds and active/mainstreams 23% of 25-54s. The metrics analyzed also include weekly occasion, P1 weekly occasions, top daypart and other critical metrics that can serve as benchmarks for winning stations.
But of all the numbers analyzed, Miller said the most critical is getting listeners to tune in on a daily basis. “Those daily habits are really important to ratings success, whether diary or PPM. Getting your station to be a part of someone’s daily routine, to come to you to get their rock music, and all the things that come in between the music – that’s what makes rock radio important for a large part of America.”