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What’s Missing from Your Nielsen Data?

November 10, 2020

There seems to be a real split of opinions with Nielsen’s latest announcement on removing non-subscribers for some of their data sets (Subscriber First Reporting Policy). Please be aware that this will mostly affect the systems that advertising agencies use to select and price radio station schedules. Many of the tools that radio stations use, such as Tapscan, will still include these non-subscribers.

So, what do you need to know to prepare for this switch?

Nielsen’s strategy is both simple and obvious. Do not let those who are spending money on radio advertising know the size or composition of stations that do not pay for their service. In theory, this will benefit those who do pay for the service. It may also entice some non-subscribers to pay up, so they can be on the agencies’ radar screen.

There are opposing views on whether or not this is a good move. Much of the thought comes down to how you view Nielsen. Is Nielsen a service that supplies the media and advertising industries with data to help them understand people’s media habits? Or, alternatively, is it a business whose primary purpose is to maximize profits?

Few will argue that it is both. However, this policy decision puts these two goals in conflict. Clearly, like any business, it has a need to maximize revenue, but it also in Nielsen’s interest to be seen as the supplier of comprehensive data on radio listening.

While not unanimous, many broadcasters’ opinions are swayed by whether or not they are already a Nielsen subscriber. Management at companies that pay Nielsen to use their service have often complained that broadcasters who do not subscribe benefit and are getting a free ride. Conversely, non-subscribers feel that Nielsen is not giving the advertiser an objective view of the market, and they are being blackmailed into paying for the service.

Some have compared this Nielsen strategy to the Canadian ratings service Numeris. While Numeris only prints listening for subscribers, it is a consortium and not a private for-profit company. For that reason, the rates it charges its members, as opposed to clients, are much lower than what Nielsen charges the typical radio cluster.

We at Research Director, Inc. understand both sides of the argument. Our goal is to give our radio clients, all of whom are Nielsen subscribers, the best insight to help them both grow their ratings and boost their revenue. However, we are afraid that this will hurt smaller struggling broadcasters at a time when money is tighter than ever before. Suck it up and pay Nielsen, or disappear from the advertiser’s screen.

This change takes effect with the January 2021 survey in PPM markets. It is scheduled to take effect with the March 2021 (January/February/March) survey for Continuous Diary Measurement markets and with the Spring 2021 survey for 2-book diary markets.

We would like to hear from you on this subject. Please comment below.

And reach out to us here if you would like to talk about how you can maximize your ratings investment.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner