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Weight Weight … Tell Me!

January 5, 2021

A perennial concern of Nielsen subscribers is whether the company is delivering quality research. We at Research Director, Inc. continually track not only Nielsen’s total sample, but also how well the make-up of the sample represents each unique radio market. Several different metrics exist to help our clients understand how well the sample represents the overall population.

Typically, we track sample performance based on:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Geography

We’ve found that one of the easiest concepts to understand and track is average weight. Weight measures how many people the average meter or diary represents. The lower the number, the better. Why? Unusual changes in listening from a panelist who represents a larger number of people in the population can result in considerable swings in the reported estimates.

We track average weight in several of our programming tools. Our Format Tracker, for example, trends the market’s average weight by broad demos as well as more discrete segments (gender, age, ethnicity). Armed with this data, one can gauge how accurately the Nielsen sample represents the portion of the population that is most important to your station’s ratings.

It’s important to keep an eye on Nielsen’s sample to ensure it delivers what you are paying for. Fluctuations in average weight occur from survey to survey. Most imperative, however, is identifying long-term problems in which an important segment’s average weight is significantly larger than the overall 6+ or 12+ average weight. Again, it’s not the blips that are concerning, but the systemic problems of under-delivery.

More importantly, what should a Program Director do with this information? Good PDs use their Nielsen data to refine their programming to improve their on-air sound, as well as market more effectively. The question is, are changes in your or your competitor’s ratings a result of an atypical meter or diary keeper that represents a significantly large portion of the population, or a real shift in the population’s listening? While the listening from a single individual may be real, it may not properly represent their segment of the population.

Tracking average weight will allow you to react appropriately. We sometimes advise our clients not to make changes if shifts in reported listening appear to be the result of a single, heavily-weighted meter or diary. It is better to wait than to veer your station in the wrong direction based on unrealistic data.

Please contact us to discuss how our Format Tracker and other programming tools help you save time and make smarter programming decisions.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner