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Rush Limbaugh “PPM DNA” shows that granular analysis can be a load of crap

Interesting analysis on Rush Limbaugh’s “PPM DNA” by the folks over at Coleman Research.

But not necessarily interesting in the ways intended.

One of the most notable findings from the analysis seems to be the relative difficulty of deriving notable findings:

Kurtzman did note that Coleman found it more difficult than expected to correlate minute-by-minute data with PPM results. Though he stressed that he didn’t want to be negative about the technology, he said the PPM was “not designed for what we’re trying to do here.” More than one type of content was often heard within a particular minute of programming, Kurtzman noted, and much of the content on Limbaugh’s show, and on Talk radio in general, is less than three minutes long. “That creates a lot of fuzziness with the analysis,” he said, since the PPM is granular only to the one-minute level. Also, the share for particular content was affected by when it was heard in the hour.

In other words, folks, “granular analysis” ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. Because brands are about expectations and fulfillment over the long haul, not from one minute to the next.

My favorite conclusion, however, is certainly this one:

…the minute share is actually higher for commercials than for when Limbaugh himself is on the air. The show’s overall average minute share was 5.78, the Limbaugh content showed a 5.74 – -and the commercials’ minute share was 5.92.

Coleman theorizes that this is because the spots are placed during key moments of “high anticipation” and the spots themselves are less polarizing than the content listeners are presumably listening through the spots in order to hear.

Am I nuts or is it safe to conclude that any analysis telling you the advertising is, technically speaking, more popular than the content wrapped around it has little value for guiding the way you program your content? Coleman can say this is misreading the data, but that is literally what the data says. By a strict analysis of the data, shouldn’t we conclude that Rush’s show needs more spots?

Interestingly, some of Coleman’s conclusions are potentially at odds with what Sean Hannity indicated at last year’s Arbitron fly-in. Coleman could find no correlation between choice of topic and listening levels. But Hannity said he could specifically see trends up or down, depending on the guests he featured on his show. Perhaps Coleman should have looked at the voices, not just the topics.

The most important point made was probably this one:

The research suggests that while content and how that content is presented impacts the audience shares Limbaugh’s show achieves, the big driver of his success appears to be his clearly-defined brand image and how he remains consistent with his brand.

…which is another way of saying this “granular” analysis is really beside the point. That listeners forgive the foibles of their favorite stars because they continue to seek out those stars and the programs they host, day after day, regardless of what happens in this or that minute.

So what have we learned?

When you do great radio, granular analysis doesn’t matter and the ratings take care of themselves.

Can we please stop fine-tuning our minutes and start making our hours worth listening to?

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