Dissecting the Bridge Ratings Howard Stern study

Here is the press release from today’s Bridge Ratings study on the likely behavior of Howard Stern listeners once Howard bolts for Satellite.

There are some bold statements made here which are not, I think, likely to translate into reality.

The first – and most serious – problem is that the survey considered a Howard Stern “fan” only those folks who said Stern was their “favorite” on-air personality. Now anybody who has studied Stern over time knows one thing well: Plenty of his listeners love to hate him. Thus many of them would never vote him their “favorite” – not in an opinion poll, anyway. The self-professed “favorite” listeners are actually a small and “nuclear core” selection of Stern fans who are not at all representative of Howard’s entire audience.

Strike one.

The study goes on to indicate that 5% of Stern listeners will likely stay with the Stern station after Howard – the rest would check out alternatives or leave altogether (this number, by the way, is MUCH smaller than any number I have seen in my research).

Needless to say, it’s impossible for a listener to predict their behavior when it comes to Radio especially when folks can’t predict with any accuracy what they’re going to eat for breakfast tomorrow. Beyond that, there’s no indication that they have a point of reference post-Howard. Listeners may assume that MUSIC will be what they’re left with (a very unlikely outcome). It’s almost like choosing between Stern and dead air. No one will choose the dead air.

Here is the central question they asked:

“Of the following choices, what is your intent once Howard Stern leaves his current radio station?”

1. I’ll keep listening to the station Howard’s on now.

2. I only listen to the station because if Howard’s and will seek out other stations. I have not yet decided to subscribe to Sirius Satellite Radio.

3. I intend to follow Howard to Sirius Satellite radio.

4. I’m not sure

Can you see that option 2 is the “reasonable” option? That is, if you’re a “reasonable” person you would never say you’ll keep listening no matter what. Of COURSE you’ll say you’re going to check out alternatives. This is a biasing factor which undercuts the validity of the question in the real world. If the question begs for a “right” answer rather than a true one, don’t believe it.

Strike two.

The study goes on to report that interest in subscribing to Stern via satellite diminishes rapidly as the number of commercials in Stern’s show increases.

This is almost silly, since listeners are coming from a show they consider their “favorite” which is packed full with a zillion commercials – and only on satellite are they sensitive to this issue?! My guess is we could ask the very same question of Stern on terrestrial radio and get the same (meaningless) result.

The listeners are obviously using this opportunity to throw their weight around. They think you will run fewer spots on Howard’s satellite show if only they tell you to. This is a HUGELY biased question with INCREDIBLY inaccurate results.

Strike three.

Yer out.

Please view research results like these with a critical eye.

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