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Nielsen’s Improved Survey Technique Will Help Radio

July 9, 2015

It has been about ten years since Arbitron, now Nielsen, started their transition from a diary-based survey to PPM in the larger markets. The premise was easy to understand; if your ears can hear it, then the meter will pick it up. That worked well in 2007 when most listening was to a station’s broadcast signal and through speakers.

However, how consumers listen to radio, along with other audio entertainment, is evolving. More listening is coming not from the towers, but digitally. Instead of stereos with speakers, people are listening through their smartphones with ear buds. Many believe that this transition in how people listen to their favorite radio station is causing deflated ratings because that listening is being missed by the PPM. Therefore, both individual radio station estimates and overall market listening estimates have taken a hit.

Later this summer, Nielsen will be rolling out a plan to better capture digital listening and we believe it will have a positive impact on our industry.

In the 48 PPM markets, broadcast (signal from the tower) listenership will still be captured by the PPM. However, digital listening will be measured differently. The app or software that launches radio stations’ audio will capture what the PPM captures for broadcast-via-speaker listening. Nielsen will use other information to determine the demographics of each listener and where the listening is occurring.

For radio stations that agree to have their digital signal be reported this way, Nielsen will tabulate the streamed data and create an AQH, just like broadcast. For those stations where their digital stream is 100% simulcast with their broadcast, the average quarter hour will be combined into, and reported as, a single estimate. For those stations that are not 100% simulcast, like those that run different commercials on their digital stream, the digital estimates will be reported separately. For this to occur, the digital signal will need to meet Nielsen’s minimum reporting standards, as is the case now.

This measurement system will also be rolled out to other streamed entertainment systems, like Netflix. At this point in time, it will not be measuring the pureplays.

This new system is just being implemented in the 48 PPM markets. Over time, Nielsen will need to determine if they should follow suit in their diary-measured markets. Also, this system could eventually include the pureplays.

So what does this mean? I believe that this new measurement technique will capture listening that is currently being missed by PPM. Therefore, individual station and overall market listening estimates should rise – but it’s too soon to know how much.

While this has been an extremely brief explanation of Nielsen’s new measurement technique, please feel free to contact one of our Ratings Experts with your questions.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner