Most public radio stations use Nielsen data for both sales and programming applications. Ratings affect our sales efforts, particularly at the agency level. The top-50 markets use PPM (Portable People Meter) data while the rest of the markets still use diary-based models for data collection. PPM stations get monthly ratings as a result of devices that automatically detect audio tones within earshot of audience members, while diary markets rely on self-reported data from the audience that is delivered less often.
The Radio Research Consortium represents public media’s interests toward Nielsen. They work closely with industry groups on all things Nielsen, which includes the Nielsen Audio Advisory Council. They also negotiate on our behalf to keep down the cost of purchasing ratings data.
In mid-May, Tim Roesler from American Public Media attended the Nielsen Audio Advisory Council’s annual meetings. Tim sent this summary report (approved by Nielsen as not under the advisory council’s nondisclosure agreement):
1) One of the two biggest pieces of news at the meeting is Nielsen’s newly-stated desire to go to a continuous-ratings service in diary markets.
Read that sentence again.
They believe this is achievable, and, while there’s no current timeline on it, there seems to be no hesitation on their part. This would deliver monthly data sets as a 12-month rolling average in the smaller diary markets, and a six-month rolling average in the larger diary markets, instead of the current semi-annual deliveries.
2) E-diary. They haven’t given this up in diary markets. The combination of continuous measurement and e-diary may be huge for public radio. Going to 52 weeks is a big change, and continuous measurement gives more consistency. It is also more professional when what they’re selling against isn’t always just other traditional media, but data-rich media like digital display, or Pandora.
3) The other big update is that, after nearly pronouncing Software Development Kits (SDK) dead late last year, Nielsen has resurrected the concept and is proceeding with it. Brad Kelly, Nielsen’s audio division head, explained this further in a recent interview. Measurement of digital streams will be in cume/quarter-hour form. Note: When Nielsen “cuts over” to SDK, whenever that is, PPM encoding will no longer work for online streams. That’s important. If a station opts to not install SDK, then, after the cut-over, their streams will not be measured by Nielsen. (Nielsen is working on on-demand podcast “listening” measurement, but that is currently separate from SDK/streaming measurement.)
I would highlight a fourth item to be aware of:
4) Kelly, who became Nielsen’s head of audio last year, grew up in a radio family and is a great person to have in our corner. He says that Nielsen is committed to serving audio to complete their menu of marketing options for their clients. Only one third of Nielsen’s work is about ratings. The rest focuses on major advertisers. Kelly has been moving between the two worlds trying to communicate how each can help the other. Advertisers are eager to reach new audiences who are ready to buy, which is one of radio’s core strengths. It’s why Kelly believes the radio industry is about to enter a very exciting era.