On Nielsen Radio…


I’ve been getting calls and e-mails about my thoughts on the Nielsen/Cumulus sticker diary service, just announced yesterday. Here is my initial assessment of the plans….
*    A one time a year, two month survey takes radio back to the 1960’s and 1970’s. During the 60’s and 70’s, radio stations would "hype" the one month, once a year survey with crazy contesting and giveaways. Advertisers were suspicious of short surveys that stations can hype. In the 1980’s, radio embraced 12 week surveys to reduce the impact of hyping surveys. Then, in the 1990’s, U.S. radio put two twelve week surveys in place to further reduce hyping and bounce.  Arbitron’s 24 weeks of measurement is three times as much as Cumulus’ proposed two month service, if that will be the annual measurement period.

*    The Cumulus sticker diary might work in Australia where there are so few stations. A sticker diary is unworkable in the U.S. with over a hundred stations showing in the typical market. Subscribers today can just a Maximi$er ranker and select “all” stations to get an idea of the number of stations that showed up in their market.
In Australia, a sticker diary is planned in 2009 where medium and small markets only have one to four stations. The largest Australian markets have 12 total stations. Having a consumer have to peer through pages and pages of stickers in a typical U.S. radio market sounds cumbersome and unworkable. I would be concerned about a negative impact on radio listening levels if diary keeping becomes so difficult.

*    Which stations get to be "at the top" of the sticker page?
    Stations that are at the top of the sticker page would get more favorable ratings that those stations that are at the bottom of the last page of stickers. Who decides where the stations appear on the sticker pages?  Will all the stations that have historically shown up in the Arbitron diary service be included on this list?   This also leads to…

*    What types of station identifiers appear on a sticker attached to the sticker diary?
    Should it be call letters, slogan, frequency, or all of the above?  Putting all that station information on all those stickers seems very cumbersome.   This type of aided recall represents a major shift in the unaided manner of radio has been measured with the Arbitron open end diary and with PPM. In the U.S. there are ten times as many stations that might show up in diaries as compared to Australia. For example, consider these three medium-sized Cumulus markets:

In Melbourne-Titusville-Cocoa Florida (ranked market # 97) 112 stations show up in the Maximi$er database, in Oxnard-Ventura market #117, 71 stations show up; in Lexington-Fayetteville market 105, 109 radio stations show up. In the smallest Cumulus market, Bismarck, market rank #286, 45 radio stations appear in Maximi$er.

It will be interesting to see how they handle some of these issues which have come up before for Arbitron when they investigated various survey options for these medium and small markets.

— Bob Michaels, President of Bob Michaels’ MediaSense (972 529 7810) www.mediasense.info  (34 year radio veteran in sales and programming; former VP of Programming services for both diary and PPM for Arbitron; was with Arbitron from 1988-2006).