Arbitron’s “Infinite Dial” Study Tunes in Radio’s Multi-platform ROI


By Mary M. Collins

President & CEO, Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association

Thanks to the editorial team at RBR/TVBR, we will be sharing news and insights from the members of Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association (BCFM) and its Broadcast cable Credit Association (BCCA) subsidiary the first Monday of each month. 

We are very grateful for the chance to address our organization’s education mission through this opportunity, and we hope that you will find this information provides a great ROI – the essential effectiveness measurement tool for our members – for the time you invest in reading it.

Of course, return on investment is the evaluation criteria that all of us – including our audiences, advertisers and investors – use for measuring the value of the time and resources we devote to practically everything that we do.  That’s why we thought that Arbitron’s “The Infinite Dial 2008: Radio’s Digital Platforms” was well worth a second look for our members; we think you’ll find its conclusions very valuable as well. 

For example, the survey determined that 33 million people, roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population, tune into online radio services on a weekly basis.  Moreover, online video usage is steadily growing.  Some 46 million Americans currently access online video on a weekly basis.  With this in mind, it pays for online radio services to also provide compelling video as part of their online content the study concludes.

When it comes to HD radio, we also need to apply some of the industry’s unequaled marketing expertise, expertise that Pilot Group’s Bob Pittman praised at the NAB Radio luncheon (see RBR story here) to developing and promoting our HD formats.  According to the Arbitron study, the awareness of HD radio actually declined slightly in the last year. That’s more than just a disappointment; it’s a lost opportunity.  The return on that investment is decreasing.

Can you picture the excitement that that the industry’s first broadcasters would have had about the potential of digital broadcasting?  As they demonstrated, harnessing new technology to provide better solutions can create markets, businesses and an entire industry.  But, with falling awareness, HD radio is an investment with declining value. 

Whether it’s driving analog viewers to HD radio or to our online stations, the report reminds us that radio remains the leader among all media for learning about new music.  The Internet may be gaining ground on that score, but it should be our sites that are the reason.   

Radio not only has the ability to drive online traffic, it has the brand permission to drive the online music business.  For example, the study showed that podcast users are now more likely to purchase music online than online radio users. With one in four Americans owning an MP3 player, there are compelling reasons for radio stations to have a podcasts/MP3 player strategy.

In addition, because one out of every four Americans in the 12+ demo has a personal social networking page — and because online radio users are more likely to have one than those that don’t — radio can take advantage of connections to sites like Facebook and MySpace for growing online market share and increasing multi-platform ad revenues.
The current May-June issue of our members-only magazine, The Financial Manager (TFM), includes an article entitled “The Radio Report.”  In this “Data Deep Dive” piece TFM editor Janet Stilson outlines the Arbitron study’s findings and presents the trends graphically.  If you are interested in learning more about this research, it’s available at  You can also contact the BCFM office ([email protected]) to ask how you can get a copy of the magazine.

BCFM and BCCA members will be sharing ideas on developing new businesses that capitalize on the market trends cited in this report and elsewhere when they meet at The Fairmont Hotel in Dallas for our Annual Conference, “Your World. Your Connection.” May 13-15.  If you can’t join us, plan to look for a few of their success stories here in next month’s column. 

Until then, here’s to deriving the ROI that can only come from turning market developments that threaten our businesses into opportunities for growing them.