Nielsen delivers first radio ratings


Or, at least, the first in many decades. The company, now known primarily for its TV ratings in the US, delivered radio ratings for 51 small and medium markets from Spring 2009 by its target deadline of August. Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey, whose company recruited Nielsen to launch the service, told RBR/TVBR, “We have been extremely pleased with the overall quality of the results.”

Cumulus subscribed to the new service in all 51 markets, while Clear Channel signed up for 17 markets. Maverick Media is thus far the only other radio station owner to subscribe, in Rockford, IL. One radio network, ESPN Radio, is a subscriber, along with three ad agencies.

“The sample far exceeded their targets and was a dramatic improvement over our previous ratings service. The Nielsen data is simply more reliable due to a much larger and more inclusive sample frame. The bottom line is that advertisers, programmers and management all make decisions based upon a discrete set of numbers provided by the ratings service. Unlike the political polls quoted in the media which are invariably accompanied with the rejoinder of ‘margin of error,’ AQH share numbers never are. If the consumer of this information – advertiser, programmer or seller – knew the magnitude of the margin of error, they would view it quite skeptically if not disregard it all together,” said Dickey.

Although the Spring 2009 survey took place some time ago, Nielsen had scheduled data delivery for August to allow for time to get its software up and running for clients to download their market data via the Internet. There were apparently still some issues to work through with some clients accessing the data for the first time ever, but all 51 markets were delivered on schedule last week.

“As with all new software, we’ve been smoothing out some of the rough edges,” said Lorraine Hadfield, Nielsen’s Managing Director for Global Radio Audience Measurement. But she’s a happy camper, having delivered the massive first-time project on time, as promised.

In the future, data will be delivered about six weeks after the eight-week survey period. The Fall survey for the two twice-yearly markets – Huntsville, AL and Shreveport, LA – begins next week, with data delivery about six weeks after the sweep ends, so well before Christmas. The Spring 2010 survey will take place in March and April, so data should be delivered in June.

Only one market’s results are known to have already leaked to the local newspaper. The Topeka Capital-Journal noted that Cumulus Media’s AC KMAJ-FM “Majic 107.9” came out on top in the new Nielsen 12+ tally, while JMJ Broadcasting’s “Country Legends 106.9” KTPK-FM was #1 in the Arbitron Spring book. As it happens, Cumulus is the only Nielsen Radio subscriber in the Topeka, KS market.

[Editors’ note: Nielsen corrected that the Spring 2010 survey will be conducted in March and April, with data delivery in June, as is now reflected in the story above. It originally had said that the survey would be in February and March.]

RBR/TVBR observation: With one survey under its belt, you can bet that Nielsen will be pitching potential new clients at the NAB Radio Show next month in Philadelphia. This is the competition that so many people in radio have been saying for years that they wanted to see. Arbitron has been challenged to stay on top of its game, so it seems there are benefits for radio stations in all diary markets, not just those 51.