It’s About Identity

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.

The good news? Our format is a lifestyle format. The bad news? Our format is a lifestyle format.

This old pandemic has revealed a perspective on the latter.

When there is…

   no more driving to and from work…

   no more being at work while having your kids in school…

   no more driving to and from church on Sundays…

…key opportunities for listening go away.

Having said that, many Christian music stations are performing quite nicely through the pandemic, at least from a ratings perspective (and donor support, as well).

I have a theory about that.

It’s true that overall radio listening has taken a hit to chin during this difficult time. Nielsen has a clever acronym they call PUMM, which stands for People Using Measured Media. In real people language it means how much people listen. (It’s based upon Average Quarter Horses, not weekly tune-in).

In markets were I work I’ve seen the PUMM number for the entire market decrease 30-40% during the pandemic. Fortunately, it has already begun to rebound.

But there is another story.

Many stations in our format have maintained or increased their share and market rank. Admittedly, these are larger shares of a smaller pie, but…

…it reveals a bigger idea.

While other formats’ ratings may be driven by the news cycle or good ole fashioned consumerism (“I like country music so I listen to the country station”), our format is driven by something else. Something more important.

Our format is driven by identity… at least with the good stations, the ones that think beyond being just an option on the shelf playing unfamiliar music.

During times of uncertainty, people/listeners/consumers don’t turn away from their identities. In fact, they double down on them.

People seek out brands that affirm who they are.

“We buy what we buy to remind ourselves – and tell the world around us – who we are. We even choose our service providers based on how closely they mirror the way we would run their company. We’re attracted to reflections of ourselves. A salesperson points out this reflection, “That’s you, isn’t it?” and then gives the intellect the facts it needs to justify the purchase. Win the heart and the mind will follow.” Roy Williams

We see this demonstrated when professional athletes kneel, or don’t, when the National Anthem is played. It is evident in the seedy underbelly of politics when we hear a politician say that “if you vote for (a certain candidate) then you’re not a (skin color).” To the detriment of us all, identity politics will take center stage this fall.

Over the years people have heard me say that people don’t come to us because of what we are, they come to us because of who they are. Never has it been more evident than during the pandemic.

“You and I do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” Herb Cohen


John Frost, consultant and partner in Goodratings Strategic Services, has been an integral influence in the dramatic growth of Contemporary Christian radio, bringing mainstream programming strategies and research principles to help create and develop some of America’s most successful Christian music stations.


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