Watch out for new audience measurement systems

At last week’s commercial radio conference Arbitron and Nielsen Media Research both talked up the benefits of electronic audience measurement during a panel session chaired by UK expert Peter Menneer. While Arbitron favours the pager-like personal people meter, Nielsen is using a watch (pictured) to track radio audience listening habits.

Australia currently uses a diary system for radio ratings, but may move to electronic measurement in future contract tenders.

In the panel session, which also included Research Committee Member Graham Mott, Nielsen and Arbitron revealed that the cost of the new systems would be more expensive than current diary based surveys, but not as expensive as expected by the industry at “something less than double the current cost.”

Arbitron’s Jay Guyther and Nielsen Media Research’s Peter Cornelius both believe that electronic measurement will give a more accurate assessment of actual listening habits than diaries, which are based on recall.

Representatives from the Advertising industry confirmed that they are looking for more accountability from the radio industry and that they think electronic measurement will deliver that goal. “We want to be able to prove accountability to convince clients to invest in radio.”

“But price is a factor,” according to Graham Mott, who pointed out that diaries have yielded useful information for advertisers for many years and that they are still doing so in many countries.

During the question and answer part of the panel, DMG CEO Paul Thompson was worried that breakfast listening may be underrepresented by electronic devices because many people do not put on their watch or pick up their pager until they are ready to leave for work.

“The PPM is showing 15 minutes less listening per day,” said Jay Guyther, acknowledging that Thompson’s point may be true, but he also pointed out that current listening is done by recall, which may also underrepresent that time of day.

Also discussed was the current rule that listening must be at least 8 minutes of a 15 minute period to be valid, whereas one of the advantages of electronic measurement will be that it can capture minute by minute listening. While this may not be publicly reported, it will be beneficial for programming purposes.

Nielsen’s watch meter (pictured) will also be able to track other media consumption if requested by the media industry, by including menus of publications on the watch face which could be selected when reading newspapers or viewing television.

During questions from the floor, GWR’s Nick Piggott mentioned that in Switzerland, where electronic measurement is currently being used, there has been dissatisfaction from broadcasters about the process. He later told radioinfo the problem is with accuracy and timeliness of the electronic data.

Peter Menneer told the audience they should not expect the same results from electronic measurement as diaries: “The right rules are not the rules that give the same results as diaries, diaries are not accurate for many segments.”

Meneer believes electronic measurement will yield more information and benefit radio if it’s introduction is handled correctly.

If accepted by the industry, electronic measurement would take about 12 months to introduce into Australia according to the two companies.

Nielsen Media Research’s Conference stand