Monday Memo: Yes, You Need More Cume

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — “Cumulative Audience” is radio’s version of what newspapers called “Circulation,” back when there were newspapers. It’s the number of people who tune-into your station during the week. Listeners, not listening. How many, not how many “Average Quarter Hours” (AQH) consumed.

We can’t get someone who doesn’t listen at all to listen more

On-air promos accomplish three things:

  1. Defining the station. Imaging needs to clearly label your button in the listener’s mind. You do…what?
  2. Asking for more AQH, what the ratings people call “Occasions of Listening.” ‘Sounds like double-talk, but heaps of data affirm that the quickest way to grow Share is to get people who listen to your station most (so-called “First Preference” or “P1” listeners), to listen even more (times per day/week). Pro-tip, from Commercial Copy 101: Sell benefits, not features. “Because ONE traffic jam can jam-up your WHOLE day…”
  3. Listeners REMEMBER having-listened. Not just opportune in diary markets, where we want ‘em to round-up when they cast that ballot. In PPM markets, awareness drives use. And this matters even if you don’t subscribe to the ratings, because advertisers need prospects to hear their spots multiple times.

Do all that well, and, still, the only people who hear you are already listening.

Cume is a never-ending problem

Every day:

  • People die.
  • Others move-into – and out of – your area.
  • People age-into – and out of – your target demographic.
  • They have children, take/lose/change jobs, and change daily routines for other reasons.
  • And the pandemic changed EVERYTHING.

Meanwhile – though radio’s Reach remains substantial – broadcasters are losing AQH to new-tech competitors. Music listeners stream, and podcasting is Talk radio that’s not stuck on one subject.

So “give us a try” is table stakes, at best.

Social Media promotion is the frosting, not the cake

Yes, DO use Facebook and Twitter et al.

  • Think “engagement,” not “promotion.” Tee-up content that enables you to listen to your followers.
  • And use these digital media to drive digital consumption. Users are already online. So rather than saying turn-this-off-and-turn-on-radio-right-now, use Twitter to deep-link to specific items on your web site. Point to topical snack-size audio clips (not whole-hour or whole-show airchecks), and text of local news stories.
  • Walking-the-walk this way will habituate use of your digital assets — and expose sponsors there — LOTS more than talking-the-talk about “Check our our web site” from the AOL 14.4k modem screech era.
  • Ditto Facebook, also useful for radio’s version of DVR Alert, i.e., “Abbott and O’Rourke debate tonight at 7. If you’ll be in the car…”

But tactics like these – and other consultant lore – tend to move the number after the decimal point. Sure, going from 6.1 to 6.8 is progress. But to move the number before the decimal point, you need to invite sampling AND convert to users THEN earn more-frequent use.

“No, not yet.”

My job is easier than station owners’ job. I sign checks on the back, clients sign ‘em on the front. So my nagging about…er, “recommending” billboards is a pitch. And here’s the free prize inside: Advertisers view YOUR advertising as supporting THEM advertising on your air. Or, they also notice: We sell advertising, but we ourselves don’t?

As hard-won as those promotion dollars are, I am mindful that (say it with me): “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” So be darn sure that what new ears hear when they wander in lives up to the invitation. Execute the playbook.

And as newspapers found out, tick-tock.

Holland Cooke ( is a consultant working at the intersection of radio and the Internet. And HC is author of the E-book “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download here: and “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books. And he’s offering FREE 60-second on-air features: “Inflation Hacks: Save Those Benjamins.” HC Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke