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What Are the Different Types of Media Airtime?

By Mal Baxter
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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Getting a message to the public is a challenge with a long tradition and a narrow margin for error. Conventional media approaches like radio and television require the purchase of slots, or scheduled periods of marketing activity. Broadcast time, or airtime, describes when the content is actually on the air, transmitting to its audience; peak audience broadcasts can quickly shrink marketing budgets, and numerous media options create a wide range of marketing approaches. In radio and television, buying media airtime can include national, primary, and secondary markets. Web marketing accommodates a whole range of traditional channels as well as new media like podcasting and viral video.

In broadcasting, market penetration is called reach. This refers to how many people the message is exposed to. It also encompasses questions about who they are and what their behavior as customers may be. These determinations directly affect cost based on airtime and audience size.

Usually, marketing campaigns factor in a broadcast schedule and geographical area of coverage into the advertising rates. Other aspects include frequency of the message, with peak times demanding higher rates than off-peak times. Rates are often calculated according to formulas such as cost per thousand (CPM); this might refer to the number of watchers or listeners, and on the Internet, the number of people viewing or who actually click on a link. This last case may also be known as cost-per-click (CPC) advertising. The advantage of CPC is that it's more efficient and spares a business added expense of nonperforming traffic; that is, businesses are only charged for targeted customers who voluntarily step into the marketing channel funnel with a mouse click on their link.

Marketing through television coverage means buying airtime during and between television shows. Primary coverage of these markets may include buying airtime on news channels during the evening hours, when many people have returned home from work and are watching television. For radio coverage, marketing can occur during audio broadcasts. Peak hours might include the morning and evening commutes during rush hour. Both types of mass media coverage experience wide competition between networks, cable, and satellite companies, as well as digital media and the Web.

National coverage for radio and television include major broadcast or cable networks. Primary markets refer to local stations that serve a million or more people, usually in a major city. Secondary markets include smaller cities of half a million people or less.

Airtime can include not only traditional media, which may have branched onto the Web, but other Web-style broadcasts. Podcasts, for instance, can resemble television, radio, or call-in shows. These may range in production values from very good to very low budget. Companies often rely on viral videos to expand their message by providing not only a marketing message, but a piece of video designed for free sharing and distribution among enthusiastic volunteer audiences. This type of marketing can incorporate traditional production, but has the potential to take a unique message to a new level, where lightning can strike and the message is seen by millions of people for little to no cost.

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