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Qualitative Cume Rating or Cume Composition: Which Should I Use?

July 9, 2019

As Scarborough expands to more medium-sized markets, there are many new users of qualitative research. It does not matter if you are using Scarborough, The Media Audit, or other qualitative tools. The question always arises: which should I use, cume rating or cume composition?

There is no wrong answer to this basic question.

First, one needs to understand the difference between the two estimates. Both use the same numerator (top half of the fraction) – the number of a station’s audience that falls into a particular category. The difference is the denominator (bottom half of the fraction). Cume rating uses the total number of people in the market who fall into that category, while cume composition uses the total number of people who listen to the radio station.

Beyond the mathematics, what do these two estimates tell the user?

Cume rating outlines the percent of those who fall into a specific qualitative category and listen to that specific radio station. Typically, big cuming stations perform better with cume rating because they reach a larger percent of the population. Stations that do well with cume rating can say, “We reach xx% of those who consume a particular product.”

Cume composition highlights the percent of the station’s audience that falls into that category. Typically, niche radio stations are going to perform well in certain specific qualitative categories. While they may not reach as many of the target listeners as a big cuming station, they reach the target listeners with less waste. Stations that do well with cume composition can say, “We reach the consumers of a particular product with minimal waste.” Because these stations have a well-targeted audience, they often do extremely well or extremely poorly in a particular qualitative category.

So is there a way to use both cume rating and cume composition? YES!

Some heavy users of qualitative research look at the top (maybe 15) stations based on cume rating and choose the ones that have the highest composition. That way, you are focused on major stations that deliver the target audience with less waste than other major stations. You are not considering very small stations that only deliver a much-targeted audience.

The bottom line is, whether you use cume rating, cume composition, or a mixture of the two, there is no wrong answer.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner