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'The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market; October 1997' by Grant Goddard


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An analysis of the radio broadcasting market in Vilnius, Lithuania and recommendations to create a successful commercial music radio station, written by Grant Goddard in October 1997 for Wodlinger International.

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'The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market; October 1997' by Grant Goddard

  2. 2. MARKET OVERVIEW Vilnius has six radio stations that play popular music of some kind [see Table 1]. Some of these stations have national coverage, some have regional coverage, and one is only audible in Vilnius. In order to make fair comparisons between the stations’ performances, I have examined the Vilnius market alone, since all stations are available in the capital. The ratings data obtained from Baltic Media Facts [BMF] is sketchy and slightly misleading. BMF’s regular ratings report details the Lithuania market as a whole, with only one page of data that refers specifically to Vilnius. Although BMF’s research is diary-based, no information is readily available concerning the amount of time respondents spend listening to each station. This is a serious drawback, since all of BMF’s published data refers only to the reach/cume of each station, with no information about how long any one station is listened to. There are graphs in BMF’s published report that refer to “average weekly radio audience share” but, although they use the word “share”, they do not in fact refer to “share of radio listening”. In reality, these tables are merely the simple reach/cume figures reworked to add up to 100 per cent. The lack of any available figures for “time spent listening” inhibits the amount of useful information that can be drawn from the BMF data. It is possible to see how many people each radio station “reaches”, but impossible to tell whether they listen to that station for three minutes or for three hours per week. The success of a radio station’s programming is determined by the length of time the average listener stays tuned, as well as by the total listening audience. And a station’s revenue from advertising will be more closely related to “share” than to “reach”. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 2
  3. 3. RATINGS The bare ratings data, as published in BMF’s ratings book, is detailed in Table 2. Three stations with truly national coverage dominate the ratings across the whole of Lithuania - state radio channel one in first place, followed by two commercial, pop music stations: M-1 and Radiocentras. The remaining regional and local stations are left a long way behind these three. TABLE 1: VILNIUS RADIO STATIONS frequency station AM 612 1107 LR1 [state] LR2 [state] FM 98.3 99.3 99.7 100.1 101.5 102.6 103.1 103.8 104.7 105.1 105.6 106.2 106.8 Radio France Int. ? [Radiola] BBC World Service Radiocentras LR1 [state] Ultravires Znad Wilii Laisvoji Banga LR2 [state] VOA M-1 Plus M-1 language format French [tests] [tone] English Polish pop talk pop pop pop talk/culture English pop/oldies pop/90s The picture in Vilnius is slightly different. In addition to the three stations already mentioned, there are two further stations that also have respectable ratings - M-1 Plus and Znad Wilii - neither of which has full national coverage. The greater competition in the Vilnius radio market dents somewhat the performance of state radio channel one, compared to the national picture, and the commercial stations take a greater slice of the radio market in the capital. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 3
  4. 4. TABLE 2: CUME: NATIONAL & VILNIUS weekly audience reach Lithuania 000’s weekly audience share Lithuania % weekly audience share Vilnius % LR1 [state] M-1 Radiocentras M-1 Plus Pukas [Kaunas] Znad Wilii only Ultra Vires LR2 [state] Laisvoji Banga Laluna [Klaipeda] Tau [Kaunas] Kauno Fonas [Kaunas] 1341 1009 600 387 224 215 28.3 21.3 12.7 8.2 4.7 4.6 21.1 20.5 14.6 12.8 ----15.4 176 163 107 96 48 41 3.8 3.5 2.3 2.0 1.0 0.8 3.7 2.8 3.5 ------------- other stations 159 6.8 5.7 regional Vilnius regional regional source: Baltijos Tyrimai, 16Jul-12Aug 1997 Lithuania population (12-74) = 2,889,000 Vilnius population (12-74) = 470,000 The figures referred to in Table 4 onwards are derived from the more detailed data about the Vilnius radio market that I obtained from my visit to BMF. The data is derived from a longer, three-month survey period, which should increase the accuracy of the statistics. In Table 3, there is an additional breakdown into Lithuanian nationals and nonLithuanians (mainly Polish). The most noticeable difference is that the one Polish-language station in Vilnius, Znad Wilii, comes out on top with the nonLithuanians. No surprise there! Other than that, the remaining, Lithuanianlanguage stations are listened to in much the same order of popularity as in the overall market. The ratio of Lithuanian to non-Lithuanian listeners to each of the Lithuanian-language stations is relatively consistent. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 4
  5. 5. STATIONS’ PROGRAMMING Monitoring each station’s weekday, daytime output showed that their music policies have the following characteristics: TABLE 3: RADIO STATION MUSIC POLICIES Ultravires % Lithuanian songs % Polish songs Radiocentras Znad Wilii M-1 M-1 Plus 7 - 28 - 20 - - % pop/dance % pop/rock 53 21 48 29 31 28 34 34 23 % 1990s songs % 1980s songs % 1970s songs % 1960s songs 96 2 2 - 95 5 - 91 9 - 100 - 16 53 28 2 - - - - 33 % Top 10 hits There is one station missing from this table, Laisvoji Banga, because it failed to exhibit any signs of having a definable music policy. The morning show had a lot of talk and call-ins, leaving room for only about 7 songs per hour. Then at 11am there was an hour of cajun and country music. In the afternoon there was a show of heavy metal rock music, seemingly played from poor quality cassettes. The ONLY thing I can say categorically about the station is that I never heard any dance music. Otherwise, it played a mix of pop music and pop/rock music from the 60s to the 90s, some hits, some obscure songs, including everything from Louis Armstrong to kd lang. And it insisted on playing the same George Michael song once an hour EVERY hour during the day. It is no surprise that Laisvoji Banga is at the bottom of the ratings in Vilnius! Of the remaining stations, Ultravires plays the most pop/dance music (53% of songs), almost wholly from the 1990s. It is a music-intensive station, with some short news bulletins in morning and afternoon drive, but no news at all during the middle of the day. There is a fair proportion of pop/rock songs (21%) mixed in with the dance music, along with a few Lithuanian songs (7%). Radiocentras is the only commercial station playing a lot of Lithuanian music (28% of songs). Like Ultravires, half of its output is dance music (48% of songs), there are some pop/rock songs (29%), and almost everything played is from the 1990s. But the biggest difference is that Radiocentras concentrates on news and information in its morning and afternoon drive shows, when music is reduced to around 7 songs per hour. In morning drive, news bulletins on-the-hour are about six to seven minutes in length. Even during the day, the news bulletins are only reduced to five minutes. Radiocentras plays more bona The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 5
  6. 6. fide hits than does Ultravires, and so it sounds less eclectic than Ultravires and has a wider appeal. TABLE 4: CUME: VILNIUS weekly reach Vilnius weekly reach Vilnius 000’s % weekly weekly ratio* reach reach Lith:non-Lith Lithuanians nonLithuanians % % 35.9 35.8 27.0 21.6 21.2 7.8 5.8 4.2 2.5 0.8 0.5 0.2 42.7 44.5 11.3 29.9 30.2 11.3 7.2 7.2 0.9 0.9 0.6 0.3 29.2 27.1 42.6 13.4 12.2 4.2 4.5 1.2 4.2 0.6 0.3 ----- 1.5 6.3 7.8 0.6 3.6 9.9 2.4 8.9 5.7 LR1 [state] 171 M-1 170 Znad Wilii 128 M-1 Plus 103 Radiocentras 101 Ultra Vires 37 LR2 [state] 28 Laisvoji Banga 20 Laluna [Klaipeda] 12 Pukas [Kaunas] 4 Kauno Fonas [Kaunas] 2 Tau [Kaunas] 1 local radio 7 other local stations30 other stations 37 +1.5 +1.6 - 3.8 +2.2 +2.5 +2.7 +1.6 +6.0 - 4.7 +1.5 +2.0 ----- * the ratio is “+” where it represents Lithuanians:non-Lithuanians, and “-” where it represents non-Lithuanians:Lithuanians source: Baltijos Tyrimai, 21May -12Aug 1997 Vilnius population (12-74) = 470,000 Znad Wilii plays the Polish music (20% of songs) that no other stations do, and hence has a specific appeal to the non-Lithuanian population. Its music output is more balanced, with about a third of songs being pop/dance, a third being pop/rock, and the remaining third being pop music. 1990s songs make up 91% of its output. It is music-intensive, playing 11 or 12 songs per hour throughout the day. There are some big hits, but not a lot. The most positive feature of the format is the lower proportion of dance music than its competitors. M-1 plays no Lithuanian songs and no oldies. About three quarters of its songs are current “hits”, the remainder being entirely from the previous few years. Like Znad Wilii, its music output is balanced perfectly equally between pop/dance, pop/rock and pop music. There are hourly three- or four-minute news bulletins throughout the day. The morning drive show has a lot of chat and listener call-ins which reduce the music to eight songs per hour. During the rest of the day, the station goes highly music intensive, fitting in eleven or The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 6
  7. 7. more songs in each hour. If Znad Wilii is the all-purpose radio station for nonLithuanians, then M-1 is definitely the all-purpose station for Lithuanians. M-1 Plus is completely different from its competitors. Like its sister station, M1, it plays no Lithuanian music. Unlike any other station, it plays no dance music. Unlike any other station, it plays no current hits. Around half (53%) of the songs it plays are from the 1990s, around a quarter from the 1970s (28%), and the remainder from the 1990s (16%) and 1960s (2%). Around a quarter (23%) of the songs it plays are pop/rock. M-1 Plus has a five- or six-minute news bulletin on the hour throughout the day but, apart from that, is incredibly music-intensive. Some hours had as many as fourteen or fifteen songs crammed into them! M-1 and M-1 Plus are complimentary stations, in the sense that the music heard on one station is unlikely ever to be heard on the other. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 7
  8. 8. ANALYSIS BY AGE When the reach/cume figures are analysed by age [see Table 5], you start to see the differences between the stations’ appeal to different age groups. The two state radio channels are skewed heavily towards the older demographics, as would be expected. M-1 and Znad Wilii both have impressive performances across the whole range of ages. Radiocentras is strong in the 15-19 and 20-29 age groups, and Ultravires and Laisvoji Banga achieve their best results with 15-19 year olds. M-1 Plus does well in the 15-19 and 20-29 age groups. TABLE 5: CUME BY AGE: VILNIUS ranked by age 30-39 weekly reach % ages 12-14 15-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-74 LR1 [state] M-1 Znad Wilii Radiocentras M-1 Plus LR2 [state] Ultra Vires Laisvoji Banga 6.7 30.0 16.7 16.7 3.3 ----13.3 3.3 13.4 50.8 22.4 41.8 34.3 3.0 29.9 10.5 24.7 58.8 34.1 38.2 45.9 2.4 14.7 9.4 34.0 32.0 32.0 17.0 16.0 5.0 1.0 1.0 38.3 25.0 26.7 10.0 10.0 4.2 0.8 1.7 58.7 19.0 21.2 8.2 8.2 12.5 0.5 0.5 local radio other local stations other stations ----3.3 10.0 1.5 3.0 10.5 0.6 2.4 14.7 4.0 4.0 4.0 0.8 3.3 4.2 1.6 14.7 4.4 source: Baltijos Tyrimai, 21May -12Aug 1997. Vilnius population (12-74) = 470,000 When the table is indexed to remove the differences between the absolute sizes of each station’s audience [see Table 6], the contrasts become even more obvious. The higher the percentage of dance music that is played on-air, the younger a station’s audience will skew. Hence the appeal of, in descending order, Ultravires, Radiocentras, M-1 and Znad Wilii to 15-19 year olds. And almost no one over the age of 30 is interested in either Ultravires or Laisvoji Banga because their formats are too radical (or merely non-existent, in the latter’s case). The profiles of M-1, Znad Wilii and Radiocentras are broadly similar because their programming policies are quite similar. Znad Wilii does better than the others in the older age groups because non-Lithuanians have no other choice of station in the market, whereas Lithuanians can turn to state radio. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 8
  9. 9. TABLE 6: CUME BY AGE - INDEXED ranked by age 30-39 percentage of each station’s weekly reach in each age group ages 12-14 15-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-74 Znad Wilii M-1 LR1 [state] LR2 [state] Radiocentras M-1 Plus Laisvoji Banga Ultra Vires population [Lithuania] 3 4 1 --4 1 5 8 9 14 4 4 20 16 25 38 32 42 18 11 46 53 55 49 18 14 14 14 12 11 5 3 18 12 19 14 9 9 5 3 22 15 44 57 11 11 5 3 5 9 20 20 15 31 source: Baltijos Tyrimai, 21May -12Aug 1997. Vilnius population (12-74) = 470,000 Two interesting things emerge from this table. One is the lack of a station targeted at 30-39 and 40-49 year olds. In Table 5, we saw that there are three stations - state radio channel one, M-1 and Znad Wilii that all achieve around the same 30% reach level in the 30-39 age group, but no single station achieves anything fantastic. Why is this so? Probably because: every station (but one) plays almost all new songs; and every station (but one) plays a lot of dance music. Which leads us to the second point. M-1 Plus. It is the only station with policies of “no dance music” and “no current hits”, so why is it not achieving better results in the 30-39 and 40-49 age groups? Indeed, Table 6 shows that sister station M-1 (despite playing all new music) achieves better results in both the 30-39 and 40-49 groups than does M-1 Plus. M-1 Plus’ strength appears to lie in the 20-29 age group, where it achieves respectable results. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 9
  10. 10. M-1 PLUS One assumes that M-1 Plus was launched to capitalise on the undoubted success of M-1. Once M-1 had achieved spectacular results in the “youth” radio market, it is likely that M-1 Plus was launched to target the “older” radio market. But, in fact, M-1’s success to date is in the very same market, despite its different music format. (It would be interesting to compare ratings data for the periods both before and after the launch of M-1 Plus. It could even be that M-1 Plus is cannibalising some of M-1’s own audience.) So why has M-1 Plus not been successful in capturing the 30-39 year olds? This could be due to a number of factors:  Not enough songs played on M-1 Plus are big hits. Only 33% of songs I heard played on M-1 Plus had been Top Ten hits in the UK. This figure should ideally be doubled;  The station is too uptempo. There was not a single song played in one day that could be described as “AC”. The 30-39 age group like ballads and slow songs, mixed in with the uptempo music;  Not only are there not enough big hits played on M-1 Plus, but many songs were only ever released as album tracks, and not as singles. It is not enough for the Music Director to merely choose “nice songs” for a station format (ie: Paul Simon’s “St Judy’s Comet”) - the songs have to be familiar to the audience;  There is a tendency on the station for the rock-orientated songs to be played in clusters. For example, a half-hour period in the 0900 hour played Foreigner, Midnight Oil, Meatloaf, Suzanne Vega (a rocker, rather than a ballad), Bachman Turner Overdrive and Lenny Kravitz consecutively. All these songs were hits of varying sizes, but this amount of rock music in one period could be a turn-off factor;  Too high a proportion of the station’s music is from the 1970s (28%), and not enough is from the 1990s (16%). There have been some huge adult-orientated hits in the 1990s that are probably better known to the audience than the songs from the 1970s;  The station does not live up to its own hype. There was a pre-recorded promotional tape played regularly on M-1 Plus that spliced together excerpts from several big hit songs. This was supposed to give listeners the impression that M-1 Plus operated an impressive music policy. But not once during the day did I actually hear any of these big hits played on-air. It sounds suspiciously as if the music library of the station is too big and the mega-hits featured in the promotion are not being played regularly enough to make an impact. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 10
  11. 11.  Not enough “big name” artists (ie: Whitney Houston, Madonna, Abba, Boney M) played regularly enough. I heard more than one Lenny Kravitz song played in a ten-hour period, but he is not exactly a household name to the intended audience. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 11
  12. 12. SUGGESTED FORMAT The data shows that there is no music station that the 30-39 year olds (and 4049 year olds) can really call their own. It makes sense to create a radio station that satisfies this market, not through adopting a “niche” format, but through a mass-appeal station that plays well-known, hit songs from the world of popular music Such a strategy would be more risky if it could be demonstrated that M-1 Plus already occupies this same territory. But the BMF data shows clearly that M-1 Plus, whatever it set out to achieve, in reality does not hold much interest for anyone over the age of 30 in Vilnius. Thus the strategy does not entail having to convince M-1 Plus’ listeners to switch to another station. A station with a general pop music format aimed at 30-39 year olds is likely to draw an equal proportion of listeners from all the competing stations in the market. The format would succeed by righting the wrongs exhibited by the M-1 Plus format:  play a high proportion of genuine big hit songs;  play a high proportion of melodic, mid-tempo and down-tempo songs;  play songs familiar to the audience;  manage the music rotation system to avoid playing several similar songs consecutively;  play a lot of music from the 80s, some from the 90s, and small amounts from the 60s/70s;  deliver a consistent, hit-intensive product;  play songs by the biggest artists regularly. There are also some policies that M-1 Plus is following correctly:  play no dance music;  play no new songs;  play no Lithuanian music;  play a lot of music with little talk;  regular news bulletins (though M-1 Plus’ six-minutes is rather long). The music playlist for the format could be the same as that of the Tallinn station, since the target audiences are approximately the same. There are undoubtedly differences between these two radio markets, but to find precisely what those differences are would require investment in qualitative research in both markets. Although the primary target of the format is 30-39 year olds, there would undoubtedly be overspill in both the 20-29 and 40-49 age groups. How far the format would succeed in penetrating the non-Lithuanian (ie: Polish) population is difficult to determine without further research. But the format would certainly sound different from Znad Wilii, the popular Polish-language station in Vilnius, and would offer the non-Lithuanians an alternative source of music entertainment. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 12
  13. 13. SUGGESTED ACTION PLAN The path for action can be divided into two distinct parts: A) THE MUSIC; B) THE PROGRAMMING. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 13
  14. 14. THE MUSIC i) IDENTIFICATION of specific songs that fit the format, the target audience and the market. A total of 600 to 700 songs could be identified, which would then form the total playlist for the station. No newly released songs would be added. No “supplementary” songs would be played. Purely 600 to 700 songs rotated evenly across the station’s output. ii) ACQUISITION of these songs. Some can be bought from record stores in the US or Canada (where CDs retail cheaply). Some may only be available on various artist compilation CDs released in Western Europe (the UK releases more compilation CDs than any other country in the world). Some titles can probably only be purchased on Russian/Bulgarian pirate CDs (which may be available in the Vilnius market). iii) IMPLEMENTATION of the songs. A clock (or several clocks) need to be established that play the appropriate number of songs each hour from each category (for example: 70s, 80s, 90s songs) and in a precise order. The clock has to take into account the stop sets established in the traffic system for commercials, and it needs to accommodate other fixed points such as news bulletins, weather reports and announcements. A system (computerised or manual) has to be established in the studio to rotate the songs correctly. The DJs have to be trained how to use it. Rules have to be established to cope with various “what if” situations. A monitoring system needs to be introduced to enable the PD to check that the DJs are correctly following the system. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 14
  15. 15. THE PROGRAMMING Obviously there is a lot of other work to be done to establish a new radio station. News bulletins are very important for the station’s target age group, so that a news section needs to be established with resources that enable news reporters to compile up-to-date hourly bulletins during the daytime broadcasting hours. This will require a subscription to Baltic News Service, TV and radio receivers to monitor other stations’ news broadcasts, and a computer for writing scripts. DJs need to be recruited and trained. Fully automated stations without DJs are not a viable option in Europe, since the audience expects to hear a programme “presenter”, however minimally they may speak. Jingles/IDs need to be commissioned and recorded, obviously not in English! All the people working on-air at the station have to undergo training to understand who is their target audience, and what that audience expects from a radio station. For example, a DJ recruited for the station may be only 20 years old, but s/he needs to understand how to address an audience not of 20 year olds similar to him/herself, but of 30 to 40 year olds. The style of presentation needs to be authoritative and informally friendly, and should not resort to childish humour or inane comments. The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 15
  16. 16. A SECOND FORMAT Given the sketchy nature of the ratings data provided by BMF, there is insufficient information about listening habits to be able to establish a second potentially successful format. More substantial information from BMF would be required, probably combined with some qualitative research in the market itself. What is certain is that the “youth” market is already over-supplied with radio stations, so that nothing would be gained from introducing another “hot hits” format or another dance music format in Vilnius. The experience in other European markets suggests that a rock music format is not viable for the youth audience, because dance music is overwhelmingly the pre-occupation of the youth in Europe. Any attempt to introduce a second music format for the 30+ age group would only cannibalise the potential audience for the first station. The majority of people in this age group do not have “specialist” music interests, so that a single station playing a mix of pop music, some AC music and some pop/rock music serves their needs perfectly well. Furthermore, because the audience’s knowledge of pre-1980s music is very limited, regardless of their age, there is no mileage to be gained from contemplating an “oldies” station that plays songs only from the 1960s/1970s. Very little of the music from this era is known by ANY person in the former Soviet Union. The idea of introducing “niche” American-style formats to the market is premature at this stage. The experience of other Central and East European radio markets is that these imported formats simply do not succeed. For example, in Moscow, the only US-style rock music format in the market (Radio 7) failed dismally several years ago. In Riga, the only rock station in the market (Radio Skonto) also failed dismally. In Moscow, a US-style new age/jazz/instrumental station (Radio Prestizh) has failed to surpass a 2% reach (probably equivalent to a 0.5% share) in the last four years of operation. It fails because, however “nice” is the music it plays, all of it is completely unfamiliar to the potential audience. The issue here is simple. Compared to American (and, to a lesser extent, West European) audiences, there is very little volume of music that is familiar to the audiences of the former Soviet Union. If you play that little music with which they are familiar, you create a successful music station. If you play any other music, you fail. [With the exception of the youth audience, many of whom want brand new music and nothing else.] Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at The Vilnius, Lithuania Radio Market ©1997 Grant Goddard page 16