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Taking the Plunge

May 9, 2024

Recently, Fred Jacobs’ #TBT column was an ode to the Program Director. One of his essential points – to me – was that you should never get too high or too low when the book comes out. I used to tell my staff that ratings were like a baseball season – don’t celebrate a five-game winning streak any more than you lament dropping a weekend series. You are in it for the long haul.

Then again, this is easier for me to say today since I’m not waiting for the Nielsen download that will serve as my report card.

Suffering through the ups and downs of the ratings game is more difficult in diary markets. Even in the continuous measurement markets, the sample changes every single week. (Hopefully this will change when the digital diary is implemented. – Hint…hint, Nielsen). In two-book markets, this can be even more overwhelming because you are six months between surveys.

Life is a bit more consistent in the PPM world as the monthly sample changes by around 8% every survey. (You can find your turnover in the e-book. Note that refers to Installed meters, not just the active panel).

So what is a busy Program/Operations Director to do with all of this?

First, take a deep dive into each book. While there is less available data in the diary markets, you can still track the indexes for age cells and geographies. A diary deficit in your key demo can have a devastating effect on your ratings.

In the meter space, you can not only find out who your biggest contributors are (and where they live) but you can track their progress over time. Your CPR report is helpful here, but remember that deals with unweighted data.

Shameless plug here, our Exact Age and Hot Zip reports break down the entire market to a granular level. Not only can you see your brand(s) but any station that made the book. You will also see if you are sharing that listening with other stations. I warn you that this can be some scary stuff. Especially when you find out that more than half your AQH is coming from five zip codes.

However, that knowledge is also power. Knowing that your biggest panelist aged out or left the panel will help you avoid making a knee-jerk decision. Finding out that a big AQH listener just came online can be reassuring when you realize they could be pumping up your ratings for the next two years.

There are also benchmarks you can follow in both methodologies. For example, how are you recycling between dayparts? How does your Time Spent Listening (or Average Weekly Time Exposed) compare with the market listening levels of your target audience.

There are several factors that will affect your ratings and the Nielsen sample is one of them. Watch it closely. Remember: you do not pay Nielsen for ratings, you pay them for sample.

If you want to read the original #TBT column, you can do so here.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant