I found this post on WordPress that explains the radio market in a way most people would understand.  I’ve seen questions on other sites from people asking how radio stations determine audience and commercial rates.  This post also goes into the Arbitron Ratings system versus PPM, the other big question that comes up.  The emphasis of the article is on tips for buying radio time but in the details are the answers to some of these questions.

Not only that, I learned something new about Clear Channel:

“Spot length – You don’t need :60s.  This used to be the traditional length of a radio commercial – but Clear Channel took the lead a few years back in offering :30s, :15s, and even :05s and :01s or “blinks”. “

I had no idea Clear Channel originated the 30 second spot (for radio, not any other medium – thanks for the correction indiglo789).

Here’s the link:


  1. indiglo789 says:

    Thanks for the link! Just to be clear, Clear Channel originated the 30 second spot for radio, not any other media.

    • Thanks, indiglo789. I’ll correct that in my post. I was thinking when I read it that television was the first to go with the :30 spot and that it was earlier than Clear Channel’s usage, but I’d have to look it up.

      You wrote a great post about radio and it should be shared, especially in this market, where Cumulus Media came in and fired most of the talk show hosts on a popular station here. We are all trying to figure out not only how this could happen but how to keep local radio in our community. Your post helps explain some of the inter-workings in a way that everyone can understand. Thanks for that. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

      • indiglo789 says:

        What market are you in?
        The difficulty with local radio is that it is going to need to find a way to compete with Internet radio. Pandora, Spotify, etc. are going to be installed in cars. Clear Channel is doing some innovative things with iHeartRadio. I think they are moving in the right direction for traditional broadcast radio to survive.

      • indiglo789 says:

        Another thing I was thinking about….I don’t know the ins and outs of their business and costs at this particular Cumulus Media radio station. However, the move they made in firing the popular hosts may have been either just really dumb, or possibly out of desperation. Either that – OR they were not getting the ratings they wanted in a particular demographic? They cut one of the most popular rock stations about 10 years ago in DC. However, it was extremely popular among my teenage/early 20s friends and we didn’t get it.

        If the personalities were super popular in their desired demographics – local radio personalities are one of, if not THE MOST competitive advantage broadcast radio stations have. Serius XM, Pandora, Spotify, etc. do not have that touch of local personalization that good radio personalities bring to a station. It would be difficult for any company to replicate this advantage on as large a scale as any major broadcaster. Essentially, it looks like they just got rid of their most valuable asset. If they were desperate to cut costs, they should have done so elsewhere, or found a way to increase ad revenue.

  2. Hi, indiglo789. We are in the San Francisco/Bay Area region. A local talk station here, KGO 810-AM, a 50-thousand watt station that had been number one in the market for decades, lost some share after Arbitron implemented the PPM ratings system. This former Citadel station was sold to Cumulus Media. In early December, Cumulus came in and fired most of the talk show hosts and changed the format overnight to an all news station. When listeners protested, Cumulus claimed research showed the talk format wasn’t attracting enough younger demographics to sustain the current business model. Some listeners had been listening to KGO for decades, over generations, and it was taken away without ceremony. Now we find out this has been happening across the country and the airwaves are now controlled by a limited number of corporations.

    It’s interesting, now that I’ve been reading up on this little by little, I planned to post something about the iHeart radio app news that: “Ford (NYSE: F) today announced it is the first automobile company to give drivers easy in-car access to the popular iHeartRadio app using voice control through Ford SYNC® AppLink™.


    Internet radio is the new direction, but until this technology is easily accessible to everyone, we will have to listen to whatever ‘voice’ a few investment bankers want us to hear.

    • indiglo789 says:

      I just saw your reply after I posted. So I was right though, it was a demographics thing. Even so, when they had such loyal listeners – it could have benefited them to not have been so drastic. Also, older listeners are less likely to switch to other forms of radio listening. Maybe they could have given the station a makeover rather than kill it.

  3. Hi indiglo789, you are exactly right in your assessment. It makes no sense. Before the mass firings, even under the PPM ratings system the station dropped to 3rd in their favored demographic, but since the format change the Holiday book came out showing they’ve now dropped to something like 24th (or 12th, I’ll have to look it up, it was a steep drop) so there must be another plan in place and we are trying to figure it out. Are they attempting to force their new product, SweetJack, on everyone? Do they want to blanket the airwaves with a conservative slant during the upcoming election cycle? Do they want to sell air time based on the quantity of stations versus number of listeners at each separate station? And then throw in the cheaper syndicated programs of their choosing? It’s got everyone scratching their heads at the ultimate goal of this local disaster.

    It’s interesting about your local top rock station in D.C. How is that station doing now? And, who owns it? I will try to look up that information. Lots to learn, so little time…

    • Indiglo789 says:

      Sounds to me like they were thinking short term to appease stock holders and executive types and they made a boo boo. the rock station finally came back after a few years. It had nights on a talk station for a couple years. The station also used to have an amazing and legendary rock festival that has drastically suffered in the past few years. What exactly is your job in radio anyway?

      • That’s interesting how the destruction of your rock station in D.C. affected the local listening community. The access to information about the rock festival as well as the ability to effectively promote it, through live interviews and song play, was drastically reduced because of the change. I wonder if Clear Channel was the culprit. What were/are the call letters of the station?

        I do not work in radio. I used to work in advertising, years ago, and had to buy radio and print at times. Long ago. It took me years to be able to look at another magazine again. So many issues to look at with upcoming themes to fit a future buy. And I really feel for those radio sales reps. Back when I bought time for spots, some reps would beg me to buy some time because the general manager was due for a visit and they needed to show a sale. I understand exactly what you stated in your well-written article about not buying time on radio because you listen to the station.

        I haven’t thought about the radio market for years, until Cumulus Media came in and destroyed our local talk radio station. Now I’m finding out, slowly, just what has been going on behind the scenes in radio. Like I said, I’m still learning and trying to understand how these media giants have come in and, seemingly with the FCC’s blessing, except for Michael Copps, of course, are able to take over not just a market but entire regions of markets. It may be too late to do anything about it now.

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