Monday, January 4, 2010

Callout & Web Surveys - Part 2 - Normal Fans and Extreme Fans

Exploring the Differences between Callout and Web-based Music Surveys

Part Two – Normal Fans and Extreme Fans

For insight as to why music research results can be so different between Callout and station Website based hook tests, Kelly Music Research is conducting a series of nationwide tests focusing on different components of each. We recently completed a telephone perceptual survey of over 300 random music radio station P1 listeners aged 18 to 54 in the top 25 markets including land line and cell phone households. These are typical Callout research respondents who participate in music surveys over the telephone. We asked these listeners a series of questions about radio listening and their communication with radio stations.

At least part of the reason music research results differ between radio stations’ Website based surveys and Callout surveys can be traced to the types of listeners who make up each panel sample. Callout panels have more “Normal Fans,” while Web based panels have more “Extreme Fans.” And in most radio audiences, our research shows that Normal Fans outnumber Extreme Fans by about 25 to 1.

In Kelly Music Research’s national telephone survey, only 4% of music station P1’s exhibit Extreme Fan behavior. 96% of those polled can be described as Normal Fans.

Normal Fans are P1’s, often referred to as “Passive P1’s”. Your radio station is their first choice. Yours is their “go-to” station for their favorite music. Normal Fans can be very heavy users of your station, but they will tune away if you play, say or do something that they don’t like. However, Normal Fans are not complainers. They use Radio like they use electricity or any other utility. They turn it on, they change stations and they turn it off without giving it any more thought. Normal Fans account for the lion’s share of every station’s audience and ratings. Normal Fans are the silent majority.

Extreme Fans are different. Also known as “Actives,” Extreme Fans have a strong desire to become more involved with radio stations. Reasons for that desire vary. For example Extreme Fans might have a higher than average passion for music, often called “Purists”. Or they may have an infatuation with air personalities or core artists. Some Extreme Fans have a fascination with the show biz nature of Radio and want to be a part of it. Extreme Fan behavior would include heightened interest in radio station contests, texting jocks and making requests, following personalities on Twitter and Facebook, showing up at promotions and voicing their opinion about programming. Whatever their motivation, Radio’s Extreme Fans feel a much higher emotional connection, and even worship of radio stations, than Normal Fans do. Extreme Fans are the vocal minority

Other industries have Normal and Extreme Fans too. Take the Sports and Movies industries as examples. Professional sports franchises have Normal Fans who watch games on TV and occasionally attend home games. However, Extreme Fans go to all the home games as well as some away games. Extreme Fans comment in player and coach blogs, argue game strategy on call-in shows, know all the players first and last names, where each went to college, and whether players are married and have kids. Extreme Fans paint their faces with team colors, make signs and show up at the airport wearing team uniforms to see their players off and welcome them home from road games. Similarly, in the Movie industry, Normal Fans will go to the theater to see the Star Trek movie. Extreme Fans dress up like the characters and attend Star Trek conventions.

Extreme Fans are often characterized as “groupies” or “obsessive” by Normal Fans. Like Sports and Movies, Radio should not ignore Extreme Fans; however catering to Extreme Fans can alienate the much larger base of Normal Fans. And it is dangerous to think that Extreme Fan opinion and behavior is representative of Normal Fans.

In a simple example, if a DJ says that he or she likes a particular song or artist, that opinion can influence the way a listener scores a song being tested. Normal and Extreme fans often respond differently in music testing. Careful not to be negative about anything the station does, Extremes tend to score everything in degrees of positive and can be biased if they are also a fan of the artist. In Callout surveys, if a Normal Fan doesn’t like a song, he or she tends to say so honestly. In comparative surveys, Callout respondents are not as easily influenced by outside factors such as loyalty to air personalities, stations or artists. There is reduced likelihood for Extreme Fan bias in Callout because respondents are not informed which radio station is fielding the survey and artist names are not revealed.

It is important to note that not all radio station Website visitors are Extreme Fans. Normal Fans visit station Websites too. The #1 reason Normal Fans visit music radio station websites is to listen live to an internet stream. Normal Fans may also glance at pictures, check out weather, traffic or a podcast. But for the most part, Normal Fans don’t participate in radio contests and don’t go out of their way to join advisory panels or voice their opinions.

Over the years, technology has changed our communication apparatus but behavior patterns of Normal and Extreme Fans has not. Prior to cell phones and computers, Extreme Fans jammed request lines, attended remotes and wrote letters to DJ’s or PD’s. Meanwhile, the bulk of the audience, the Normal Fans, listened quietly. Today, Normal Fans still listen quietly. And Extreme Fans text, upload, e-mail, follow on Twitter and join station databases. The key to successful research is achieving the proper balance of Normal and Extreme Fan opinion.

Next time, the “Prize Pig” factor.


  1. An excellent piece- thank you, Paul & Tom, for your efforts in researching and sharing it. It should help my airstaff better understand the difference in normals & extremes - and the dangers in applying comments from active's calls and/or postings across all listeners.
    Bill Weston
    WMMR Greater Media Philadelphia

  2. "Paul and Tom, Thanks very much as I plan on sharing this with my programming staff. It's amazing that no matter how much the technologies may change the basic listeners habits remain the same. I will mention one significant change due to technology.......WBSX cumes around 100k, the text club is in excess of 30k(unique members) normal users using an extreme technology (normal to their lifestyle)."
    Bill Palmeri
    Market Manager - Citadel Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

  3. I remember a decades-ago poster one consultant handed out at NAB saying, "It's the Diarykeeper, stupid!"

    Any research stations do has to have palpable, measurable impact on ratings. As long as ratings are done by reaching out and grabbing people, our internal methods have to mirror the kind of respondents Arbitron or Nielsen or Eastlan obtain.

    It's easy to get caught up in the technology and lose sight of the reality. The two articles on callout and active listeners are brilliant, as was the idea of researching the research methods. I am salivating in anticipation of the next installment.

  4. Interesting stuff... I think it's important to remember though that, whether you're fielding results from a phone sample or, a web sample, you should "consider the source." The true "silent majority" likely never participates in either type of study.

    Song research is a study in generalities. True hits will rise to the top in call out and Internet research and the "clunkers" will drop to the bottom.

    Web studies tend to show familiarity and subsequently, burn more quickly than call-out. Call-out sample is expensive to field and subsequently, respondent size tends to be smaller. Some may view these tendancies as problems with the methodology. I view them as characteristics. Understanding the characteristics of any research method is the most important part of interpreting the research.

    Hal Fish
    RadioTraks, LLC

  5. Hal - Good thoughts on characteristics of methods and sample. However, the silent majority will participate in studies, as they did in our study. But we have to reach out to them. We can't count on them to come to us.

  6. In hundreds of music tests I have seen, I have seen few statistically valid differences between properly screened online and phone studies.

    Screens will filter in respondents who meet the agreed upon criteria for the test.

    If there is a difference in results it's usually because of a non-professional screening process which allows unqualified respondents into the study.

    With the right screening, the portion of Uber Fans (extremes) is kept in check.

  7. We are seeing the same results you have seen - the aparatus (computer, telephone) does not influence the survey result. The sample does. Station web samples attract a disproportionate number of "Uber Fans." As you suggest, it seems a proper recruiting and screening process would deliver the same results regardless of whether the survey is conducted over the phone or online. We will continue to study and report on our findings.

  8. Anything that makes research more reliable is better for all of us.