Radio Hosts Squeezed by Too Much Listener Info

Hosts say it takes away from content
By Sarah Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2009 11:10 AM CDT
Ryan Seacrest presents an award at the National Council of La Raza ALMA Awards in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2008.   (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

(Newser) – Radio stations are collecting more and more data on the listening habits of their audience, and even popular hosts like Ryan Seacrest are feeling the pinch. Seacrest says Clear Channel execs told him to zip it because ratings would rise if "you actually play some more music," the Wall Street Journal reports. When he complained to a pair of cross-town rivals, they said they were hearing the same thing: "Maybe you guys should shut up and play more Red Hot Chili Peppers."

At the center of the issue is the 2-year-old audience-measuring system called the Portable People Meter. The small device carried by a panel of consumers lets stations see in more detail "when the tune-ins and tune-outs were," a program director said. They use that info to adjust programming and maximize audience. Of course some say that kind of micromanaging makes shows feel scripted. "If you spend too much time looking at the granular data, your brand will become bland," a CBS VP said.