Nielsen to Provide (Same?) Radio Ratings

Nielsen, by way of the announcement of a deal with Cumulus Media, entered the radio ratings fray. They seem to have girded their loins to take on Arbitron, the undisputed king of radio ratings services. My question is: What will they offer that is different from what Arbitron is providing? What is needed is actual use, not the reliance on memory, to make the case to advertisers

At first blush, other than different names for the same services…we can’t seem to get past the pencil.* OK, I’m guessing they are offering to do it cheaper. Price is clearly the driving force behind most broadcast media decisions. But, beyond that, according to the rather brief New York Times article, ‘Nielsen will produce ratings by collecting diaries from respondents.’ This is the same methodology that has been provided by Arbitron forever. The Times goes on to point out, ‘Arbitron’s effort to gradually replace diaries with an electronic form of measurement, personal people meters, has led some station owners to complain.’

So let’s recap…a radio company is going to reinvest in questionable recall, diary (read pencil and paper) methodology because the new electronic technology, which is in it’s very infancy, isn’t giving them the results they want (and, BTW, is also much more spendy than said diaries.).

To be fair the pitch from Nielsen talks about all sorts of cool stuff to make data collection more, as they say, robust. Their ‘addressed based sampling’ (ABS) is promising access to “the 34% of U.S. households that are not covered by current sampling methods”. Other nifty commitments include;

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Now You Know…ACT!

A great post from Mark Ramsey today at Hear2.0. Mark is brilliant and has always lead the way in giving a collective smack on the backside of the broadcast industry to stay on top of changing communication. In fact, to be honest, I sometime worry about how much he smacks them. The fact is though…he’s right. Be sure and listen to his presentation here.

Now that you’ve listened, act! Broadcast, The New Radio is out there waiting, but you can’t get there on the cheap and you can’t do it by making your “stick” a second thought. There needs to be understanding, a strategy, resources, real people to make it all work, and above all, a relationship with your clients…both listeners/users and clients.

It’s Thursday, Must Be Radio: Lunch with Harve

This is Thursday, a day that holds a special place in
any radio guy’s heart. You see, this is the day that the Arbitron ratings diaries
kicked in. For those people that have committed to keeping a diary (and earning
a dollar doing it), this is the day the survey week begins. This day and its
importance to radio and the way it’s programmed have always been debated. But
most still consider this a very important day when it comes to ratings. For
that reason, I will spend my Thursdays posting about radio. (Sorry, no money

Today I had the chance to enjoy lunch with one of radio’s most
respected programmers. Harve Alan whose career has included many high profile programming
positions in multiple markets, as well as VP positions for many successful
companies, is highly regarded not only by me but the industry as a whole. ( I
have even more regard for him because he picked up the tab!)

Harve recently parted company with Next Media after a brief
stint as the VP of Programming. He is now officially hanging out the shingle as
a Broadcast Consultant. I’ve always enjoyed talking with Harve and he has never
been at a loss for opinions. You can check out his blog at Harve Alan Media
when you get a chance.

We talked about everything from HD to the overall health of
radio as we know it. We both agreed that 2008 promises to be an interesting

Harve’s challenge to radio? Develop great entertaining content!
I know, we’ve heard it before. However, as of late “great entertaining content”
has translated into, “Shut up and play the music.” That’s a recipe for
disaster. Harve’s thought, and I’m paraphrasing, “Three will always be a place
for the “lite” music stations of the world (those that play “lite rock and less
talk”) because that’s what the “older” audience is looking for. For the younger
audience, they want great personality.” That doesn’t mean more talk. That means
personality even on music stations. I would agree. Those in radio that think
that we will be able to compete for the ears of those under 50 with nothing but
music will witness steadily falling numbers and dollars.

Another part of our discussion centered on hyper-targeting ourselves
to death. Look, radio has formats targeted to specific demographics. That’s
what needs to be done because you can’t please everyone. At the same time, part
of your branding can’t result in excluding other secondary audiences. Harve and I talked about a station we both are familiar with that is so exclusive
to “conservative” listeners it drives away anyone that even looks moderate, let
alone liberal. His point…be a talk station that appeals to conservatives, not a
conservative talk station.

I was also anxious to find out what will make his new
consultancy different from the others out there. His
response, he’s not afraid of new thinking. I think the phrase was “fresh ideas mixed with calculated risk
taking, aggressive interpretation, and implementation of sound strategies”. In
a nutshell, take a few chances while executing the strategies that work. I hope
it happens. There are not a lot of chances being taken in radio these days. Unless,
of course, you count staying low enough to get through the next quarter without
losing your job.

Converting to a new “Metrics” System

If you’re over the age of 45 you are probably thinking about
the movement to convert the U.S. to the metric system. Remember, we were going to measure stuff just like the
rest of the world? (Try as we might, us wacky Americans just couldn’t seem to
get the hang of the whole x10 deal.)

What I’m referring to is the new media and online business “metrics”
system. The metrics we use to measure the success of online advertising. As I’ve
addressed many times in this blog, new media needs to offer proof of its
success in generating traffic for advertisers. I have always maintained that we
are enjoying a buzz factor resulting in substantial amounts of money pouring
into online advertising. It’s vital to get a better handle on how we measure
the results because it’s only a matter of time before those advertisers want
proof that their investment works. Who knew that time would be…gulp…quite so

In an October 22nd New York Times article titled,
“How Many Site Hits? Depends Who’s Counting.” author Louise Story points out
the disparity in the site visit and page view numbers provided by the different
companies supplying metrics (Nielsen, ComScore, etc.). Say hello to the first
drop of what could result in a flood of media buyers pointing out “reasons we
shouldn’t spend so much on web advertising.”

The numbers in question continue to be based on the way we
measure TV, Radio and Newspaper. “How many see it? How many hear it? How many
read it?” I would submit that we need to focus on “Who uses it?” New media
advertising offers something to the consumer that no other media does…instant
interaction. Clicking on a banner, downloading a video or podcast, that’s
something you can measure. In fact, I think that if a new media ad inspires someone
to take immediate action its worth more
than a TV, Radio, or Newspaper ad.

But, this goes beyond even “clicks”. Let’s invest the money
and go a step further. Do the research and go beyond quantity. Take the
opportunity that a new advertising medium is laying out to us. Provide
information on the quality of the users and the experience they have. Start
training media buyers now on how new media consumers take advantage of the
advertising they interact with. Mass media is OK but, commitment and loyalty
(brought about by the user experience) is so much better. We need to start
working now on establishing a new style of metrics (just as organizations like
the ADM is earnestly working to do).

New media offers us a chance to advertise and market in a
whole new way. Let’s stop trying to measure it in a whole old way.