Friday, March 9, 2018


The headline statement for today’s post seems obvious. It is a fact that most people do not like commercials, pop-up ads or dubious claims on any media platform. But, the division between people who will tolerate ads and people who avoid ads altogether seems to be increasing with radio listeners.

In yesterday’s post we discussed the power of SiriusXM’s brand promise of “no commercials.” “Commercial free” is also a leading brand promise for public radio and the value of “noncom” seems to be rising.

Recent studies have shown it is not only the content of radio ads, it is the repetition that causes folks to tune-out. As time-spent-listening to commercial radio stations continues to drop, ad rates are also falling. The short-term solution adopted by commercial radio is to increase commercial loads, which only increases the problem.

Plus, commercial stations exacerbate the problem by putting ads in clusters that can last six minutes of more. Take a look at the hourly clock for Imus in the Morning on the right. At least four times in one hour the commercial breaks last at least five minutes. Stations can easily fit 25 minutes of spots into a typical hour.

People’s aversion to spot radio advertising appears to be growing according to recent studies. Often the biggest turnoff is not only the content of the ads, it is the repetition of ads.

Radio ads are often annoying by design. The purpose of ads is to break through the clutter caused by the programming and get listeners attention. The programming draws listeners and then the embedded ads repel them. This is not a long-term formula for succes

The relentless, intrusive nature of commercials is proliferating on all media platforms. People want to escape the continuous hustle by switching to noncommercial choices like public radio or SiriusXM.

Tricks such as increasing the speed of voice or making ads sound louder are only increasing the problem. Noncommercial public sails on without uninterrupted.


A new study recently found [link] that young people hate being advertised to so much many have stopped using social networks. The study by San Francisco-based content management firm Lithium Technologies found that a significant number of younger folks dislike the feeling of being targets for ads. While advertisers may believe they are reaching their next generation of customers, folks in the younger demos may be turning off the messages altogether.

Rob Tarkoff, president and CEO of Lithium warns that advertisers should be aware of the growing resistance to paid ads:

“It might be the canary in the coal mine.”

Tarkoff says many advertisers and commercial media companies are in denial because advertising has always worked the past. Paid advertising allows the sponsor to be in total control of the message. But, increasingly, advertiser control of the message is what younger people want to avoid.


An excellent article appeared this week in the Hartford Business Journal [link] discussing the fact that NPR News/Talk outlet WNPR, Harford, pulled ahead of heritage commercial News/Talk station WTIC-AM in the most recent ratings. 

According to reporter John Stearns, radio listeners have increasingly tuned into Connecticut public radio station WNPR for news and talk over the last couple years instead of WTIC. WNPR has maintained that lead in four out of the previous five monthly Nielsen PPM reports.

The shift to WNPR is the strongest in morning and afternoon drive hours. WNPR is increasing its lead over WTIC in these vital day parts.

According to Stearns, the ratings shift in Hartford might be explained by the changing political environment and aging of the population, but the more likely reason is that WTIC has LOTS of commercials and WNPR has none.

Both stations offer extensive coverage of local news and issues, but WNPR has the additional advantage of airing programming from NPR.

WTIC’s VP of Programming, Steve Salhany, told Stearns he isn’t overly concerned about WNPR’s rise and WTIC’s fall:

"I've been here at WTIC for almost 30 years and numbers kind of go up a little bit and the go down some. [But,] we look at ratings over the course of a year. I am confident WTIC will retain the lead by the end of 2018.”

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