Tag Archives: callout research

Why Does My Radio Station Need Callout Research?

Today’s Tuesdays With Coleman blog first appeared in The Sands Report, the Alternative music newsletter written and published by Richard Sands.

At Coleman Insights, we think of callout research and streaming consumption data as valuable, and complementary, tools for those making decisions about which songs to add, drop, or change in rotation. Our goal is to provide a little primer on callout research and help explain why many successful programmers consider it an essential resource.

What is callout research?

For those unfamiliar with it, callout is a form of consumer research that routinely measures your target audience’s opinions on the new, current, and recurrent titles you are playing or are considering playing on your station. Typically conducted on a weekly or biweekly basis, each survey measures the familiarity and popularity of 30 to 40 songs. We want to learn if the listener is familiar with the song, and if they are, we then want to learn how much they like or dislike it. We can look at different segments of the audience, and we can track and trend these data over time. Additionally, metrics such as Hitcyle®, Burn, and Fit may be used to gain deeper insights on the titles being tested. Though this form of research is still commonly called “callout,” at firms such as ours, there is no longer any calling being done; instead, the surveys are conducted online.

Understanding the “whys” of behavior

As mentioned earlier, callout research data and streaming consumption data complement one another. In general, think of consumer research, such as callout, as a tool that helps you understand the motivations that drive consumption. I like to say that consumer research helps us understand the “whys” of behavior.

For example, Nielsen data may show that a radio station’s audience is smaller than desired, but why is that? Is the station off the radar screens of potential listeners? Is the format lane too limited in its appeal? Is the music recipe off in some way? Consumer research can answer these questions.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/fizkes

Along these lines, streaming consumption data may indicate that a song does not have much traction, but why is that? Do people not know the song? Do people know the song, but feel kind of “meh” about it? Do people know the song, but completely dislike it? Callout research can provide clarity.

Callout research is designed to generate success in radio

Of course, it is valuable to know which songs are being heavily consumed in streaming, just as it was once valuable to know which songs were being heavily purchased in physical, and then digital, form. That said, it is important to keep in mind that the songs that are most successful in streaming, like the songs that were most successful in sales, are not necessarily the songs that will be most successful for your radio station. It’s not that one system has it “right” and another has it “wrong”—they’re just different.

With the on-demand streaming chart, we’re essentially looking at the positive votes of those who have chosen to hear a song. Evident at the top, for example, may be the enthusiastic streaming of a popular artist’s new release.

But in radio, the full range of opinion matters because everyone listening to your station gets a vote. They vote by turning on and sticking with your station, or they vote by turning off or changing away from your station. And it’s impossible to give everyone exactly what they want. Thus, successful programmers are skilled in the art of coalition-building, creating an appealing shared experience for a large community of listeners.

In this radio paradigm, one can see how tremendously helpful callout research can be. When curating a radio station’s recipe, it is essential to understand both the positive and negative values that each song brings to the table. If, for example, you have two songs with equally passionate fan bases, but the first is disliked by 5% of listeners while the second is disliked by 25% of listeners, the latter would be a riskier choice that you would want to handle more carefully.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

Callout also helps you identify up-and-coming songs with low familiarity, but high evaluations among those who know them, giving you the confidence to get behind them and help build their familiarity. And on the other side of the lifecycle, some callout services have measurements such as Hitcycle or Burn that help you determine when it’s time to slow down the rotation of a song.

Additionally, a key benefit of local callout research is that it can be precisely focused on the audience you choose to target. Your market, your demographic criteria, your listeners, your competitors’ listeners—whatever parameters best align with your strategic needs. (While local callout research may be the gold standard, I should note that we also provide a national callout service, Integr8 USA, as a more budget-friendly option for high-quality callout data.)

In closing…

While callout has been the topic of the day here, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that callout is the only tool that matters when it comes to making decisions related to new music—but it’s certainly one that I’d want to have in my toolbox.