Radio Stations & Format Genres

In major metropolitan areas, there are often thirty, forty or even fifty broadcast radio stations.  How can one tell which is what?  Sometimes, the names are self-explanatory (such as Radio Beethoven or Rock & Pop), but other names are less illuminating (such as Canal 95 or Radio Horizonte).  For working purposes, people in the radio industry have found it convenient to classify radio stations according to certain format genres.

The classification scheme for radio program genres will differ from country to country.  Sometimes, this reflects unique features in the country (such as tango stations in Argentina).  Other times, the choice seems quite arbitrary to people outside of the radio industry.  In the USA, the common person may not be able to distinguish between 'contemporary hit radio' and 'adult contemporary.'  Conversely, in the USA, the listeners to the 'Hispanic' genre is sensitive to the vast differences between a Spanish-language salsa/merengue music station and a Spanish-language mariachi music station.

A classification system also has the unfortunate effect of forcing an outcome.  It is easy to classify a station based upon 'all news, all the time.'  It is harder and unfair for a station that runs different kinds of programming at different times (e.g. coverage of the stock market during the business day, sports on the weekend, etc).  Nevertheless, a station may be classified into the 'predominant' programming.  The alternative is to assign a radio station into the limbo known as 'various others.'

We will now present some survey data from the TGI Chile study conducted by Time IBOPE in late 1999.  This is a survey of 2,003 persons between the ages of 12 and 64 living in the Gran Santiago area.  In this survey, the respondents were asked which radio station they listened to in the last 7 days and they were asked what types of radio programs do they frequently listened to.  We applied the method of correspondence analysis on the answers to these questions to produce the correspondence map in Graph 1 below.  This map is a geometrical relationship between radio program preferences and radio stations.  Radio stations that are listened to by the same set of people tend to be clustered together, and radio programs that are listened by the same set of people are also clustered together.  If we look at the radio program types, we find that they are grouped into four major segments (popular music in the bottom-left quadrant, Latin American music near the top, European/North American cultural music (classical, jazz/blues) to the bottom right and news/information/talk on the right near the horizontal axis).

Graph 1.  Correspondence Map of Radio Program Preferences & Radio Stations Listened to In Last 7 Days
(Source: TGI Chile, Time IBOPE)

We note that it is more common to conduct such an analysis through an intermediary set of demographic variables (such as gender, age and socio-economic class) (see the references at the bottom of this page), such as saying that upper-class adults male like to listen to classical music and they frequently listen to Radio Beethoven, for example.  

Here, we have eliminated the intermediary variable in the correspondence map for the purpose of displaying the relationship between the stations and their programming.  It is as if we eliminated the people from consideration, even though they provided the information for us to construct the map.  If we were thinking about an advertising application, then the target persons should be put in the primary role.

Now one might imagine that such a correspondence map may be helpful to locate an unoccupied niche in the ecological community of radio stations.  Unfortunately, things are never that clearcut.  First of all, we would have to consider the size of these niches.  In the following graph, we show the percent of persons who say that they frequently listen to various radio program genres.  On one hand, even though the classical music niche seemed to have only one occupant, the total audience may not be sufficient to support another entrant.  On the other hand, even though the popular music niche seems to overpopulated, the large audience may be able to support even more stations.

% Persons 12-64 Who Listened to Radio Program Genres

(Source: TGI Chile, Time IBOPE)

Another point is that there are important, but sometimes intangible, factors behind the successes and failures of radio stations.  Within a particular niche, some stations are more successful than others, for many reasons --- more attractive radio personalities, better playlists, more powerful signals, more/fewer commercials, larger promotional budgets, better sales organizations, etc.


(posted by Roland Soong on 4/20/00)

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