Important Factors when buying radio

buying radio time is an art and a science

buying radio time is an art and a science

You have a shiny new radio commercial.  But it’s only as good as its’ audience.  There are 3 important factors when choosing what station(s) your commercial will air on.

There’s an old expression “Make sure you have enough noise makers to make it a real party.”  That’s a very simplified way of saying you should have sufficient budget to make the splash your commercial deserves to achieve its’ desired results.

A common philosophy and one we exercise regularly here is to make sure you “own” the station or stations you choose to go with for your buy.  It’s better to take a modest budget and dominate one station than spread your money amongst too many stations and not achieve effective  exposure on any.

When buying radio there are three factors.  Reach, frequency and cost per point.

Reach is the number of prospects that will likely hear your commercial.  Frequency is the average number of times your potential customer will actually hear your commercial.  Cost per point is the benchmark for evaluating the cost effectiveness.  It’s the cost to reach 1 percent of your target audience.

The rule of thumb is to buy enough frequency to ensure your commercial is heard several times.


Often a radio station will have a feature such as Coach Time where the coach of a local team is interviewed at the same time each day.  Buy paying a modest premium your product receives association and brand enhancement by that direct association, provided your product is a natural fit for the feature you’re purchasing.

Run offs

At certain times of the year, radio stations will have a glut of inventory and play with the rate card price.  Your product may benefit from buying more spots during these slow times provided your product is desired at that time of the year.


In addition to sponsorships, billboards often accompany your commercial.  “The 6 o’clock news is brought to you by Aamco. Better transmissions. Better mechanics.”

Know your station

Some station have a large number of listeners listening for a very short period of time.  You’ll want to ensure you’ve bought enough frequency to ensure you catch those listeners as they pop in and out of the station you have chosen.  In Toronto we have 680News where people tune in by the thousands on the 1’s to hear the traffic and weather together.  Then they’ll pop back to the music format they were listening to.  By going heavy on a station like 680 you’re able to talk to a wide grouping of listeners from various radio stations.

If you have a youth oriented product with a definite younger skew it would make sense to simply buy the station that leads in that demographic.

Buying radio involves part numbers and part gut instinct but when you combine logic and proven formulas it generally means a radio buy that achieves the goals of proper reach and frequency.





The history of magnetic tape

Many a day I spent pushing tape back and forth on two reels to cue up a cut, master some audio, or splice a contest winner during the on air days.  Getting that curse word closely cut out with a razor blade an angled splice block was a race against time but it was never boring.

There was something organic and pure about pulling up a fresh pancake of tape and recording something on to it which, at the time, we felt would be forever.

Obviously time and temperature have not been kind to that content and most of the valuable material has been digitally remastered.  Having said that, I still have a basement full of reels that still need saving.  Hopefully it’s not too late.  Here’s a great article shared by fellow radio aficionado Christ Seguin.

The History of Magnetic Tape

Online-the next radio

The one thing that has kept radio alive has been the local factor.  Radio covers what’s happening right in your city.  Online radio choices are quickly lining up and once they determine the importance of programming directly to local IP addresses, that version of radio may be as powerful as Google adwords. The difference?  Choosing a radio stream is a very personal decision and to date there have been so many players the power of mounting the masses has not proven possible.  The requirements of passing FCC or CRTC criteria to have the privilege of broadcasting to the public is not relevant.  So anyone from little Johnny sitting in his basement to large media giants can hang out their shingle and pronounce themselves online radio stations.  Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and now iTunes Radio are all ready to do battle.  Who will win?  Whoever  puts live bodies into the local trenches.  Just like the radio of old, a personality in your face, at the super market opening, the local movie premiere, the ribbon cutting of the new highway or at the local rec centre will win over glitzy, anonymous digital signals that are only as good as the blend of hits that resonates with the listener who is as fickle as they come.  But a digital station that actually sends a personality out into the community  to humanize the medium?  Old school is not so old after all.

Reference article from Ad Age