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

The warmth of analog

Digital is not analog.  We’ve heard that time and again.  I see 20 somethings lining up on Queen street in Toronto on a Saturday to buy a turntable.   Then they run up the street to a record shop, yes a record shop, to buy vinyl and play it on their brand new turn table.  I remember in my disc jockey days saying a huge thank you to the skies when I was finally able to retire vinyl and slide in that shiny disc or music cartridge and not worry about dropping the album on the ground and backing my chair over it.  Of course  I still managed to do that on a CD disc once.  Funny how those things stick in your mind thirty years later. But why the love of analog by gen X and beyond?  Because they hear the difference.  The warmth of analog.  The music is recorded and engineered closer to the performance, not digitized into ones and zeros.  An audiophile will tell you, just put on the headphones, close your eyes and listen to the difference.

Here’s an article from the Toronto Star that further hammers home the case for analog.


RadioRadio’s long history

My passion for radio started long before I’d ever heard of Stan Freberg or the term “boss jock”. Both play an important role in the history that is radio. As did Jack Benny, Mel Blanc, Bob Hope, and more recently Jerry Stiller and Dick and Bert. Dick is still alive producing radio out of California.

I started RadioRadio while I was still doing on air work at Q107, and Y95 in Hamilton. It was fun then. It’s still fun today. When production creative house RadioRadio started in 1990 it was more or less the pre-internet era. Yes, Al Gore supposedly invented the internet light years ago. But in 1990 we were still sending reel to reel tapes and cassettes around by Purolator and bike courier.
We were doing in person casting sessions where people would actually come to your studio and “drop off a tape”. Or do live auditions. Sure it still happens today, but long after the digital download demo has been pre-screened. A few months ago I did a completely live, digital Skype session with me in Toronto and the talent in Montreal. That concept has been around for a while, but not without the use of Zephyr boxes and a lot of extraneous gear. in 1996

RadioRadio was an early adopter of the web. We had our first website in 1996 with large, cumber sum audio files. You would click download and come back after lunch to listen. Thanks to the Wayback Machine web archive we can see snapshots of those early websites and wonder how we ever got away with that.

Although the tools are much better today, the process stays the same. A great idea, a bit of timing, the perfect words and sound effects and poof …the magic happens.