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What Can Result from Continuous Diary Measurement?

May 16, 2019

In a matter of months, Nielsen is planning to deliver monthly ratings reports – known as Continuous Diary Measurement (CDM) – to the four-book per year diary markets. These monthly reports will be considered “currency.” Nielsen is positioning this as a positive step towards aiding in enhancing radio’s relevance to the advertising community. Nielsen believes that having more frequent currency data is a plus for these markets and can result in new advertising dollars.

A positive aspect of this change is that the affected markets will have access to the most recent data. The digital revolution has created an environment of instant data gratification. Radio can no longer afford to deliver data that is literally last quarter’s news. We were told that the monthly data is needed for inclusion in the marketing mix models used by planners. This would be a plus for Radio as we are competing for dollars with other media that have more frequent data and are in those planning models.

This is not to say that the new Nielsen enhancement is without its potential pitfalls.

We take you back to the dawn of the PPM era. When Nielsen announced that ratings would be monthly, they hailed it as a boon for radio. The promise then was that this more granular data would increase revenue for radio. The rollout of PPM not only did not increase revenue to those markets, but (maybe for independent reasons) market revenues decreased.

Nielsen is making a similar claim for Continuous Diary Measurement. While the two situations are not 100% comparable, we at Research Director, Inc. question this assumption. Will more frequent currency data contribute to revenue growth? We do not know of any empirical data that supports this position.

We will save the sample size debate for another post but suffice it to say that – to date – Nielsen has not pledged to increase sample size in the newly minted continuous measurement markets. This means that the monthly fluctuations we see in Arbitrends will continue, but now this monthly data will be currency. Nor have we gotten wind of any new or enhanced reporting features that will make the data experience more productive.

We do know that broadcasters will be paying more if they want access to this data. Conversely, it is our understanding that advertisers and agencies will be getting this data at no extra (or a minimal) cost. The potential that advertisers have currency data that many Nielsen clients cannot afford will hurt broadcasters’ ability to negotiate. If this turns out to be true, it is not good news for broadcasters and, eventually, bad news for Nielsen.

Please understand that we are not saying the new rolling averages are 100% bad. As stated above, we see this as a potentially positive step. One question to ask – how much ROI will the increased “investment” generate?

We are concerned that – like the PPM roll out – Nielsen is giving the agency world more ammunition to use against Radio rather than providing us with better tools to raise revenue.

We hope this new system is a feature and not a bug. We would love to see a level of transparency that allows broadcasters to “test drive” this option before being forced to buy it. Maybe Nielsen can take a page from the digital world and beta test the service for a few months. Let broadcasters (and ratings experts) get elbow deep into the data and software and see what it can do.

Working together we could make this a boon for radio. Otherwise, its déjà vu all over again.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant

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