More debate about All-Christmas Formats

From the news:

According to a survey by HARKER RESEARCH, while an overwhelming percentage of those polled (89%) do want to hear 2 or more Christmas songs per hour on the radio during the holidays, nearly 2 respondents to every 1 criticized stations for flipping to an all-Christmas format before Thanksgiving. Respondents also largely expressed feelings that playing Christmas music “early and often overly commercializes the holiday,” and that “continuous Christmas music may be annoying.” HARKER also reports that the listenership of Christmas music is down, as only 14% of those surveyed this year prefer stations to play all-Christmas music, as opposed to 20% last year.

Surveys about stuff like this are always nice but invariably miss the point. Being different in a way that appeals dramatically to some will give an edge over being the same in a way that indifferently appeals to all. The argument for one station to go All-Christmas still holds for that reason. Ratings success is not just about what folks want, it’s about what your competitors are and are not doing. If everybody wants it and every station is doing it you’re much better off zagging than zigging. As for flipping before Thanksgiving, if that’s what you have to do to get the edge, then do it.

The scary thing about research statistics is that they exist in an interpretive limbo. If your interpretation of the above is that All-Christmas is bad, then you’re interpreting wrong. If your interpretation is that a flotilla of All-Christmas stations in your market is a dumb idea, then your interpretation is good.

Also, language like “overly commercializes the holiday” is loaded and inappropriate in a survey. Especially since everything at Christmas is aimed at overly commercializing the holiday. And the word “may” in “continuous Christmas music may be annoying” suggests that you should ignore the point because “may” also means “may not.”

Nevertheless, this survey does add more fuel to the fire that, as I’ve said previously, the market for Christmas music is exactly one station deep. And woe unto the second and third stations that try to follow suit. Your listeners will punish you at diary-time.

And by the way, some folks have asked me, well, can’t we be the only All-Christmas station for African Americans since we don’t share with the All-Christmas AC. Or the only All-Christmas Country station. Answer: No, you cannot. Christmas music may come in many flavors but the standards are the standards and the market is the market. It’s one format with many colors. Don’t kid yourself.

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