Most listeners upset with format changes


KassofNew research from Mark Kassof & Co. reveals that 84% of 18-64 radio listeners in the U.S. agree (strongly or at least slightly) with the statement: “It upsets you when a radio station you like changes format,” and 44% agree strongly. Only 16% disagree, with a mere 5% disagreeing strongly.

Among age groups, 35-44 year olds are the most upset by format change — 89% agree that a format change by a station they like upsets them and 55% agree strongly. Least upset are 18-24’s, especially 18-24-year-old men. Still, 70% of them agree, with 26% agreeing strongly.

These findings are based on 1,009 online interviews with 18-64 radio listeners in the U.S., conducted in mid-January…part of Kassof’s ongoing ListenerThink research.

Said Mark Kassof: “The point of this research is NOT that stations should avoid format changes! Of course they should, if better opportunities present themselves. Our objective was to explore how much listeners care about radio, and the answer is: a lot!”

He adds, We’ve seen how wrong in previous ListenerThink research — like our Fall P1 study, when we found that radio delivers emotional benefits to listeners beyond music, news, sports, etc., and when 70% agreed that if they couldn’t listen to radio, something very important would be missing from their lives. Now, we’re looking at listeners’ engagement with radio from another angle…not what would happen if radio went away altogether, but on a more specific basis — what happens when a station they like changes. What brought this to mind was my own work — research that guides stations to better ratings, sometimes requiring dramatic format changes. Most recently, a client changed format from one that excelled among 45-and-older listeners to one that focuses on 18-44′s.  There was a major emotional backlash among those left behind, who went online to express feelings like: “I am so upset,” “I’m in mourning,” “This is a blow…very depressing,” and some even threatening bodily harm to station execs!”

From a format perspective, the P1′s of Oldies/Classic Hits stations (89% agree, 61% strongly) and Rock stations (89% agree, 59% strongly) would be most upset when a station they like changes format.

RBR-TVBR observation: Conversely, one could infer that 18-24 men care the least about radio today—and are potentially listening to their own music or that of Pandora, Slacker, iTunes Radio, etc…


  1. DUH.

    KKRW, Houston’s classic rock station recently became KQBT, an urban hip-hop station. Do you think there was even one KKRW listener who was happy about the format change?

    Again, DUH.

  2. KDMX 102.9-2 of Dallas, Texas changed its format. I no longer listen to that station. KPMZ 96.7 of Flower Mound, Texas dropped the best music format back in 2010… I no longer listen to that station either. When stations change good formats to bad I want to listen to local radio less. Internet audio can fill the void. Broadcasters should be careful… Listeners can start streaming audio through the Internet and never come back to local radio.

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