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Get to Know Your Panel – Part 2

September 9, 2021

The best way to get great ratings is to create great radio. Great radio has the ability to attract a large audience, and cume can cure many ills – especially the wobbles that come in the ratings.

That’s programming on the macro level. On the micro level, there is the Nielsen PPM panel. Any information you can garner on how it is constructed from a proportionality perspective is useful knowledge.

We’ve written before about getting to know your sample, how well the sample represents the population in your market, and how to use that knowledge to make smart programming decisions (read Part 1 here).

If you’re in a PPM market, another tool available to you is Nielsen’s report titled “PPM Panel Additional Characteristics.” This is a quarterly perceptual snapshot of the panel. Keep in mind that this is a moving target as panels tend to churn at a rate of 8% or so every month. That said, it is the best available information on the panel.

And it has value. For example, the second question is about household income. For years it was thought that survey participants tend to skew towards the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. This myth has been busted. The report shows every PPM market, and you might be surprised to see how many panelists live in households with an income of at least $100,000.

There are a few bits of data that we find interesting…

  • At line 38 on your Excel spreadsheet you’ll see this: Number of Radios. In market after market, you see that the number of panelists in participating households that have “zero” radios is alarming. Generally over half of the participating P6+ households have one or no radios!
  • Scroll down to line 171: “Presence of Voice-Enabled Home Assistant (Smart Speaker).” The question does not ask for brand presence, merely whether the household has a smart speaker. We compared the answer in Q1 2020 with Q2 2021. In other words, pre-pandemic versus post(ish)-pandemic. In every single market we looked at, the penetration of smart speakers in panelist households was up. The average was 6.9 percentage points. Certainly, these were not the exact same panelists year over year, but the dramatic growth is worth noting. This makes sense. As we spent more time in lockdown and work–from-home mode, more people made the move to digital. This data is also important if you are considering whether or not to make your station a total line reporter. (Unless you are doing a great job monetizing your stream, we vote a big fat YES on this, BTW.)
  • Line 165: “Podcast Listener in Household” – this does not measure frequency. It only measures consumption and, as we will see in the next paragraph, it can be a bit misleading.
  • Line 149: “Any Use of Internet Radio Services by Household” – the key word here is “any.” This does not appear to ascertain if “any” use is in a specified period. I, for one, have a Pandora account I have not accessed in years. However, if asked this question, I would have to list that service as one I have used.

Nielsen’s report includes a lot more information on the panel, including education level, occupation, ethnicity, and language spoken.

We would never, ever recommend programming to the panel. However, if these households bear even a slight resemblance to the rest of your market, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with these characteristics.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant