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Is PPM Unfair to News/Talk Radio?

Here’s my understanding of how PPM works:

In any given quarter-hour under diary methodology, you used to have to listen at least five continuous minutes for that listening to “count” you as a listener and to “count” your listening as an “occasion.”

Under PPM however, I’m told that those five minutes no longer need to be continuous.  That is, if I flip back to the station several times in a quarter-hour I count as a listener and my listening counts as one occasion as long as all those minutes and seconds add up to at least five minutes.

This hurts the performance of News/Talk.

Here’s how…

How many minutes do you need to listen to a music station to know if you want to stay on that station or tune away?

The answer isn’t denominated in “minutes,” but rather in “seconds.”  Four to seven, to be exact.

In other words, if you can tell how much you like a song by its hook, you don’t need to listen any longer to that station to know what you’re in for for the next two or three minutes (the length of the song).  And you also know that if you check back in two or three minutes you’ll have another four to seven seconds worth sampling, and the process repeats all over again.

Now, how many minutes do you need to listen to a News/Talk station to know if you want to stay on that station or tune away?

You pop in in the middle of a conversation….You need several minutes at least, maybe longer, to determine if what you’re hearing is worth hearing.

That implies less churn on News/Talk radio because the kind of button-pushing we do for music stations is fundamentally unfulfilling.

In other words, because of the nature of spoken word content you will need a much longer trial period to determine whether you will keep listening or not. This means you’re far less likely to flip back and forth to a News/Talk station during a quarter-hour, thus your chances of aggregating a qualifying amount of listening in that quarter hour are slimmer.

Due to the lower churn you’re less likely to “count” as a listener to News/Talk.


A discontinuous five minutes that define “listener” and “occasion” give an edge to music stations since spoken word stations are simply less likely to be used this way.

This is likely to boost the Cume of music stations and depress the Cume of News/Talk stations.

So tell me, when your market shifts from diary to PPM, which format sees its Cume rise more, music stations or News/Talk?

And is that fact – or an artifact of methodology?

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