Audience Estimates

December 21, 2012

The “December Surprise” – Nielsen purchasing Arbitron – is undoubtedly a game-changer for the media business.  And many in radio are hopeful that the sale means good things for the industry.

While the devil is always in the details, this move would seem to be a big crossroads moment for radio, media, and measurement – at a time when innovation is necessary.

We’re at that point – more and more consumers are turning to multiple screens, digital media, and a bevy of options.  And it will all intensify after the holidays as they purchase new smartphones, tablets, and connected cars.

How traditional media brands make the transition is at the heart of the issue, and how Nielsen and Arbitron measure these emerging behaviors and habits will determine whether they can be properly monetized.

Before the sale, Nielsen and Twitter (how’s that for a combination?) did one of those announcements that was a reminder about just how much things have changed in the world of media consumption.   They put together a deal that will track “social TV” activity on Twitter – a look at how consumers comment about the television they watch.  For those who view Twitter as a second-class platform to Facebook, this is the type of innovation that is needed in radio to measure social media reach and impact.

It’s not just about viewing or listening.  It’s about social media engagement with the content that people enjoy and use.  As we have illustrated with media phenomena like WXYZ-TV’s “The Backchannel,” social media and traditional content consumption often go hand in hand.

As Steve Hasker, Nielsen’s president of global media products and advertiser solutions, notes, “As a media-measurement leader we recognize that Twitter is the preeminent source of real-time television engagement data.”

I think most radio broadcasters would be thankful for a way to integrate their streams, podcasts/on-demand audio, and their over the air product into reliable, credible numbers that can be tracked, packaged, and marketed.  In that way, we’d see a truer picture of the impact of programming and content, as well as a better road forward to market that data to advertisers.

As jacAPPS develops mobile products that are being used more and more to take radio on the road, we continue to hear from broadcasters who warn about the potential negative impact of listeners who stream on PPM ratings: “If just one meter turns to the stream, it will hurt our stations’ overall PPM performance.”

It’s a corrosive way to think in the long term, but it’s understandable given the limitations of today’s measurement system.  And it puts radio broadcasters in the uncomfortable position of building and bolstering digital delivery platforms, while often low-keying their existence for fear of eroding their ratings.  It’s counter-intuitive and it goes against the “anywhere, anytime” spirit that is so necessary in this rapidly changing environment where new gadgets, screens, and delivery systems are what people are thinking about.  Just turn on your TV and watch any cluster of commercials – it’s all about gadgets and connectivity.

The data matters, and we hope that as 2013 rolls in, this Nielsen and Arbitron marriage helps the broadcast industry better understand, build, and market their great content for maximum results.

We wish our friends at Arbitron well, and we hope this turns out to be a positive transition for them.  Radio needs great measurement especially during these exciting and challenging times, and hopefully, the combination of Nielsen and Arbitron will be good for all of us.

One final note: This is our last new post of the year.  Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go to our annual “Best of” format, showcasing the most read posts of 2012.

We thank you for reading JacoBLOG, and wish you, your families, and your companies a safe, happy, healthy new year.


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3 Responses to Audience Estimates

  1. Bob Bellin on December 21, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    This could be a big opportunity for radio – one with real impact. Radio has been fixated on improving its fortunes by doing a better job of “telling its story” amidst more than enough input from major agencies pointing to better metrics as at least part of the answer.

    Marketers say that radio is losing money because its current measurement system lacks the metrics they want and get from other media. More and more media is being measured by audience and behavior – to the point where real ROI can be calculated and radio can’t do that right now. This presents a monumental consultative sales opportunity for Nielsen – one that Radio and Arbitron have been unable to leverage to this point. Nielsen measures multiple platforms and verticals while carrying tremendous credibility with marketers. They have the contacts, knowledge and savvy to find out exactly what “the big boys” will need to see from radio to move dollars in its direction. They should – and probably will find out exactly what type of measurement and products they need to supply for radio to increase its share of the money. Additionally, they can measure the flow of messages as they migrate from over the air to different platforms like apps, social media and other media – resulting in a process that’s tweaked and improved.

    One caveat – radio pretty much got sold a bill of goods when agencies told them that a PPM type measurement would lead to a bigger share of the ad pie. Radio jumped in with both feet, re-engineered its programming to reflect the new reality and ended up with nothing to show for it but a bigger bill from Arbitron. Better more specific quid pro quo from marketers should be outlined before paying more money for new forms of measurement.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on December 21, 2012 at 6:29 PM

      Bob, I am also upbeat about the potentials as the two ratings behemoths join forces. Better metrics will lead to a more solid sense of ratings reality as well as what radio will need to do to survive and prosper in a digital environment.

      The radio biz has been through some tough years as the PPM system arrived as the economy was cratering and new digital competitors were rapidly entering the scene. Hopefully, Nielsen/Arbitron will make a strong case for why radio needs to opens its minds…and its pocketbooks.

      Thanks for the insightful comment.

  2. Resolutions | jacoBLOG on January 2, 2013 at 6:40 AM

    [...] the Arbitron/Nielsen marriage could be at the epicenter of recasting radio’s inbred ability to reach consumers on the go, in [...]

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