Saturday, January 30, 2010

CBC Radio 2 market share: the BBM "Fall" survey

Readers of this blog may ask: why does he keep this up? Why continue to track CBC Radio Two’s market share, when apparently no one gives a damn? Well, the answer to that question is this: someone has to keep track of the success or failure of the CBC’s grand experiment in their attempt to dictate their tastes to the CBC listening audience. If I don’t, who will? The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage? Members of Parliament? The Board of Directors for the CBC? You would think so, but as far as I can tell none of them are doing this. So it’s up to me, as Don Newman used to say, to “keep them honest”.

You may recall from past analyses (S3 2009, S1 2009, S3 2008) that we are comparing CBC Radio 2’s market share from S1 2007, the last quarter before the CBC began to restructure CBC Radio 2’s programming, with the latest quarter’s market share (the “Fall Survey”, as measured by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement). The CBC initiated the CBC Radio 2 programming restructuring in March 207 to make CBC Radio 2 “more relevant to Canadians”. One would assume, therefore, that market share is the primary means to determine whether CBC Radio 2 is “more relevant to Canadians”, correct? After all, if fewer people are listening to CBC Radio 2 then, by definition, it must be less relevant to Canadians.

If you have been following these analyses you may have noted a consistent trend. While the total radio audience in the markets tracked by the BBM has been flat or increasing, CBC Radio 2’s market share has fallen. The latest quarter is no exception. While the total radio listening audience has decreased by 3.2% in those markets surveyed by the BBM since S1 2007, CBC Radio 2’s audience has declined by a whopping 38.4% since S1 2007! The following chart tells the tale:

It should be noted that the latest quarter’s results include a change in survey methodology by the BBM. In the past, the BBM relied on listeners to maintain a diary to record the stations that they listened to during the survey period. The BBM has now introduced the PPM (“Portable People Meter”) to record audience listening habits. The PPM does not rely on the survey respondent to record what they are listening to; instead, it automatically records the stations that the respondent is listening to.

Recent news reports (National Post, Dec. 17 2009) have highlighted the differences observed between the diary survey data and the PPM data. Some have suggested that respondents were previously fudging their diary reports, either intentionally or unintentionally, to appear more sophisticated. So, instead of saying they were listening to “CDUD, Classic Rock from the 70’s 80’s, 90’s and today”, they may have been saying that they were listening to “COOL, Cool Jazz for the Urban Über Hipster”. Or they may simply have unintentionally been over or under-stating their listening habits. Whatever the reason, there are some glaring differences between CBC Radio 2’s audience numbers for S3 2007, the last survey to used diary data (with the exception of Montreal, which has been using PPM data in all recent surveys) and the Fall 2009 survey, where PPM data is used for Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton for the first time. It should also be noted that the drastic decline in CBC Radio 2 listenership was also observed for the Montreal market when the Montreal survey changed from diary data to PPM data, so we can only assume that the PPM data from those markets which are now using PPM measurements is correct.

What, then, does this tell us? It seems to indicate that the CBC’s experiment with CBC Radio 2 has been a big, fat, resounding failure. Why does no one seem to care about this? Have CBC managers been denied their bonuses for this year because of this abject failure? Did their managers note in their performance review that they completely misread the market and should try to improve their performance in this area? Has anyone been reprimanded for destroying a much-loved Canadian institution, that being CBC Radio 2?
And what have the CBC Board of Directors been doing all this time with respect to overseeing the operations of the CBC? What oversight of the CBC has the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage provided? What have our Members of Parliament been doing? As far as I can tell, no one has been paying attention, with the exception of those former listeners to CBC Radio 2 who have given up on CBC radio in disgust. I may be wrong and I wish someone would tell me that I am. But as far as I can tell, no one seems to give a flying hoot.


John Oliver said...

Good to see you're still at it James! Thank you for providing this analysis. It seems that by no measure, statistical or cultural, can the new Radio2 be deemed to be anything relevant to Canadians. Radio2 used to be the station that gave Canadians rich Canadian content, unique, and mostly outside the mainstream. We heard our stories, met our authors, actors, directors, choreographers, musicians, composers, philosophers, and creators in countless other disciplines, and we heard their work. Canadians wait for our national broadcaster to let us hear them again.

Chris Foley said...

There's a typo in the title of your post - I think you meant "the BBM FAIL survey". How sad that CBC Radio has lost both audience and relevancy in this attempt at reorganization.

Anonymous said...

Keep at it James! We know that CBC likes to re-write history when it comes to failures, so we can't rely on them to be honest when the chips are down.

How much longer do you think this will go on before they quietly put the old schedule back?

I believe (I'll have to check my files to be sure) when the changes were implimented 18 months ago, they said drop was expected and normal and we would expect to see things improve within a year.

Well, it's over a year and things aren't improving...

James Wooten said...

In response to the last comment made: I don’t think we’ll ever see CBC Radio 2 return to the previous format. An institution that had endured for decades was destroyed in a few short months in a frenzy of change management that at times seemed to me to have all of the characteristics of a Stalinist purge. Even if CBC management recognized its error, could we get Danielle Charbonneau to return to CBC Radio? Or Howard Dyck? Or Jurgen Gothe? Or Eric Friesen? I believe that the CBC Radio 2 that we once knew is gone for good. All that we can do is to continue to try to highlight the mistakes that were made, in the hope that the CBC Board of Directors, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage or the Minister of Heritage take notice.

XM301 said...

Excellent entry, and interesting analysis...

To add another dimension, however, it would be interesting to see a broader demographic breakdown. (Purely anecdotal and not empirical, but since the relaunch, a many people with whom I'm acquainted in my age group - late 20s/early 30s - have started listening to Radio 2, and the ones I've met who are unhappy are generally the older classical listeners.

The raw numbers alone simply don't give the whole story. There are many dynamics with any radio station's rating.

(unrelated side note - Radio Canada has some brilliant music programming on espace musique.)