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Know Your Sample

July 14, 2022

I want to start off by saying this is not a blog post focused on bashing how radio ratings are created. The Nielsen PPM system is currency for our industry, and it is in all of our best interests to see it succeed.

That said, the system as currently constructed has its flaws. The biggest one is sample size. More sample would bring more consistency. However, the radio industry cannot afford to pay for this increase, and Nielsen certainly will not do it for free (nor should they).

We can complain about the playing field, but we are all in the same game. The PPM meter does not play favorites – listeners do.

What can we do about this? First – create great entertaining and engaging radio.

Second – know your sample. As Nielsen’s supply chain issues have abated, and wearables have come online, they are getting back to hitting their 6+ targets. This is fine but is merely a headline. The real story is proportionality.

In a perfect sample, the percent of the population represented by, say, Women 35-44 is equally represented in the sample. In that perfect world setting, the sample for Women 35-44 would index at 100 – proportional to the population. Clearly, we do not live in a perfect world. This is why it is important for you to watch the sub cells in your sample – especially those you are targeting with your content.

It is unrealistic to think Nielsen could index at 100 in every cell. We are fine if an index falls between 90 and 110 and will accept anything between 80 and 120. Anything outside of those parameters can have a dramatic effect on your station’s share.

For example, let’s say the Men 25-34 index in your market sits at 75. This means those listeners (aka meters) are much harder to find, but their reported listening is weighted up. Great for you if you hit one. Bad for you if your competition gets it.

Conversely, if Women 45-54 index at 150 you’ll have less difficulty in landing them, but their value will be decreased.

Take this a step further and look at the ethnic breakouts for each demo cell. Your overall Men 35-44 sample may index at a solid 97. However, a deeper dive may reveal that this is being driven by Hispanic men while Other men are seriously under-sampled.

The “what ifs” in the preceding paragraphs are based on real world situations. We see this all the time and counsel our clients on what to do with this information.

We also have many reports like Exact Age, Hot Zip, and Format Tracker that enable you to see and track this data, as well.

Remember, you do not pay Nielsen for ratings. You pay them for sample. Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant