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The In-Tab Dilemma

January 27, 2022

If you are a Nielsen Audio subscriber – or read All Access – you know that the ratings company recently issued a statement concerning COVID and meter in-tab in PPM markets. Like many companies across a broad spectrum of industries, the pandemic has impacted their ability to perform at optimum levels.

We applaud Nielsen for their transparency on this issue. We also urge you to pay closer attention to your market’s in-tab every single month.

When the pandemic first started taking hold in the spring of 2020, Nielsen ramped up their efforts to ensure sample sizes remained robust. In many markets they over delivered – in some cases by a lot.

Then, in 2021, they were plagued by chip shortages and in-tab began to decline. Now they are trying to stay ahead of the curve and – according to their memo – anticipate this to be a short-term issue.

You can be reasonably sure that P6+ in-tab will not return to the levels seen in 2020. That’s a shame, as the more sample – the better.

One of the services we provide for our clients is keeping a close eye on the sample. While Nielsen usually hits its 6+ target for in-tab, no one in the industry sells or programs to that number.

When you start breaking down a survey to examine how well you performed in your target cell(s), pay close attention to the proportionality index for each cell.

To refresh your memory, the proportionality index compares the percentage of population each cell represents to the percentage of in-tab meters for that cell. A perfect index is 100, which means the percentages match. If a cell underperforms, there are fewer meter keepers representing that cell and they will be weighted up. Conversely, if a cell over-indexes those meters will be weighted down.

As a general rule we prefer to see indexes in each cell to land between 90 and 110. We will “accept” indexes between 80 and 120. Any cell that drops below 80 is a serious red flag. This can lead to significant increases or decreases in a station’s ratings that don’t represent actual changes in listening.

For example, let’s say your station’s biggest listener is a 35-44 woman. She gives your station over 1,000 quarter hours a week. However, her demo cell indexes at 74. This means you are getting increased “listening” from that cell because of weighting. The reverse is true if that cell is indexing at 145.

We have seen these examples in the real world countless times. That is why it is critically important that you track this metric.

Remember, you don’t pay Nielsen for ratings. You pay them for sample.

If you would like assistance in tracking this metric, The Ratings Experts from Research Director, Inc. are here to help. Reach out to us here. And visit All Access for their full coverage here.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant