With massive change underway at Nielsen, as it finally finds a buyer for its soon-to-be-renamed Global Connect business, its profitable Nielsen Audio division last week announced that it would scrub any non-subscribing radio stations from all data except at the respondent level — removing it from summary data most commonly used by advertising agencies and media buyers.
Vocal opposition to Nielsen Audio’s decision as of today appears to outweigh those who support Nielsen’s business decision, which Nielsen Audio Managing Director Brad Kelly explained at length to Streamline Publishing’s Radio Ink.
Now, the man who has emerged as the biggest voice representing non-corporate owned radio broadcasting companies says he’s ready for a competitor to Nielsen Audio that would eventually replace the venerable diary-based ratings measurement seen in the smallest ranked markets across the U.S.
In a letter to the radio industry distributed late Friday, Adams Radio Group President/CEO Ron Stone declared, “The time has come for a disrupter product to emerge.”
He assailed Nielsen for “still relying on a system that has never adapted to a digital world by itself,” and believes Nielsen Audio’s new policy, designed to protect its business model by preventing non-subscribing stations from benefiting from their appearance in the data, has not solved any problems. Rather, Stone says, it has “created a giant need for an alternative service.”
Stone opened his letter to the industry by noting how “many radio stations spend significant money supporting the Nielsen services in their markets and feel they should have never been subjected to carrying the load while others benefited without any
Stone is the owner of one of these radio stations, and slammed Nielsen for the “enormous fees that radio stations have been subjected to.”
He adds that many Independent Broadcasters Association (IBA) members reached out to him to share their similar concerns about Nielsen Audio’s move. Dollars matter, and Nielsen wants too many of them from radio broadcasters, they exclaim.
“Radio stations more and more cannot justify the high cost of Nielsen ratings,” Stone wrote. “In a world where data collection has never been easier or less expensive, Nielsen failed to adapt.”
Stone’s letter goes on to ask specific questions as to whether or not Nielsen’s change improves audio delivery measurement, or if existing subscribers will see “a serious reduction in their cost for the ratings if another radio group wants to sign up to avoid being ‘delisted’ in a market.
With the cost to radio broadcasters Stone’s No. 1 concern, he declared, “Radio stations must reduce their dependency on outside companies that feed off our fears that we need them more than they need us. I am no statistician, but no one has ever adequately explained to me how measuring a few hundred people in markets with millions, often several from the same household, truly identifies the listening habits of the entire market. Violent swings in ratings from one book to the next, something many if not all radio stations have experienced, speaks volumes about reliability. We all know listening habits of people do not change as radically as the ratings can indicate. It would not surprise me if many stations that have supported Nielsen in the past now choose to reallocate the significant money for a service that will not tell the entire story.”
“It would not surprise me if many stations that have supported Nielsen in the past now choose to reallocate the significant money for a service that will not tell the entire story.” — Ron Stone
Enter Eastlan Ratings, the company led by Mike Gould that was founded in 1999 as an alternative to the predecessor to Nielsen Audio, Arbitron.
Eastlan provides radio audience measurement data to over 450 subscribing radio stations in nearly 100 small to mid-sized markets across the United States. It is presently wrapping up its Fall 2020 survey period. Its most recent markets include Maui and Kauai, with summer 2020 surveys administered in this neighbor islands to Oah’u. The “August 2020” survey period saw data released from 25 markets including Bend, Ore.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Fredericksburg, Va.; South Bend, Ind.; and San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Spring 2020 saw ratings surveys in 24 markets including Anchorage, Ak.; Yuma, Ariz.; and the West Virginia cities of Bluefield and Beckley.
According to Stone, the IBA is “currently working” with software engineers and is in conversations with Eastlan “to design a new digital ratings service.”
Without offering details of what this “digital” service would involve, Stone claims that it “will deliver in real time and will eliminate the need for a printed diary or additional devices.”
How so? “It will combine listening from both terrestrial and streaming for more accurate total listening measurement,” he says.
Further, no station would be excluded from the measurement — a direct swipe at Nielsen Audio.
With Stone calling it “Uber” Ratings, he concluded, “We believe we can deliver on this new service quickly, providing a robust, more reliable alternative for audio measurement benefitting both media companies and agencies. This new ratings service is a giant opportunity to improve how stations are being measured, lower the cost of measurement and be fair to all concerned.”
Meanwhile, Nielsen Audio offered an update to its previously disclosed statement that non-profit and minority-owned broadcasters would be reported regardless of subscription status in a statement distributed Monday.
As published in AllAccess Media Group, Nielsen clarifies its qualification criteria by saying, “minority-owned broadcasters (Black, Hispanic, Asian, Female, and non-profit) with revenue less than $7 million and non-profit stations either publicly owned or holding 501(c)(3) tax status will be reported regardless of subscription status.”
This means Urban One and Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) will not be getting a free ride, if it were to decide to end its subscriber services. The same goes for Meruelo Media in Los Angeles, for example.