Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Radio Ratings Questions

Richard Harker has been blogging some important questions about the current state of radio ratings (Arbitron, We Have a Question: What Happened to the Button-Pushers?), such as:

When PPM identifies a radio station and then the audio switches to an unidentifiable source, it is recorded as a switch to non-encoded media. No more radio credit is given. But what if the participant really just switched stations, but PPM couldn't identify it? Could this explain lower listening estimates and the absence of button pushers with PPM?

Now, I’d like to add a few more of my own:

Nielsen research from their Lexington diary test earlier this year found cell phone-only households are heavier radio users, while Arbitron has reportedly come to a totally different conclusion. Their new spokesperson told Inside Radio yesterday “There does not appear to be different listening behavior.”

Are the differences based on diary measurement vs metered usage? Or, is there really no difference in radio usage between the kind of people who would not have a land line home phone and those who do? Who’s right? How can we know for sure? Will Nielsen and Arbitron (or the RAB?) fund an academic study of this?

When Nielsen announced their 2009 radio survey in the U.S., they talked about releasing the data in June. Now, company insiders say they are working toward a tentative launch date of August 17, which just happens to be three days after the last Spring 2009 Arbitrons have been released.

Why the change, in spite of the fact that Nielsen’s local market surveys started and ended a month before ARB’s?

Nielsen, it seems, has chosen to have the luxury of seeing ARB’s Spring 2009 local market reports before they give ARB a look at their data in the markets they both have been surveying this spring.

Why keep their Cumulus and Clear Channel subscribers waiting for the data like this? Or, are subscribers seeing the first Nielsen radio data this month and were they a part of the decision to delay the release?

In Canada, where BBM is discontinuing their use of Nielsen TV meters, lowering their client TV station subscriber rates as they embark on using PPM for all media measurement, keeping radio rates the same as they have been for diary surveys (unlike Arbitron which is charging 60% more), diary sample proportionality in market after market is causing hair-raising levels of weighting - making for wild book-to-book swings.

Has BBM already done the replication study I am asking about? Or, are they moving ahead with PPM merely because of the economies of scale for their subscribers?

Confusing as all of this is right now, it's good to see so many different approaches being tried by broadcast researchers.

Once all of this data is available to independent observers in the coming year, we're going know a lot more about what's unquestionably fact .. and what's just preliminary theory.

3 comments:

radioevangelist said...

Jaye:

Interesting questions. I'll pose an answer to this one:
" Are the differences based on diary measurement vs metered usage? Or, is there really no difference in radio usage between the kind of people who would not have a land line home phone and those who do? Who’s right? How can we know for sure? Will Nielsen and Arbitron (or the RAB?) fund an academic study of this? "
By the time that anyone gets around to finding the funding for a study, the question will be moot. Landlines will be the exception for personal use and those that still have them will also have mobiles.

Dave Newton said...

After years of development, PPM is clearly still an alpha product. Radio needs (1) innovation in programming -- the old way doesn't work, and (2) new audience measurement methodology. You can parse the current bumbling process all you want. What radio needs is new operators who accept digital realities.

Todd VanDyke Overbeek said...

When are we going to bring up the issue of relative worth of listeners? What is the value of the single listener paying rapt attention to a program of great interest, compared to the casual attention (or inattention) of ten listeners who just have radio on in the background? Ratings services and advertising agencies take the lazy way out and rely on quantity. How do we persuade them that a smaller, attentive audience can be of more value than a larger, indifferent audience?