CRA moves to hybrid radio ratings system with watches, streaming data & e-diaries

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and GfK’s commercial radio ratings system is getting an overhaul, moving away from a sole reliance on paper diaries and towards a new, hybrid methodology.

The incoming Radio360 system will include a mix of listeners wearing an electronic watch meter, while paper diaries will begin to be phased out in favour of e-diaries. Live streaming data will also be integrated into the multimillion-dollar system.

The announcement comes almost three years after CRA last publicly trialed smartwatches as part of a potential shake-up to radio measurement.

Since that announcement was made at the 2018 Radio Alive conference in Melbourne, precious little has been heard about potential changes to the diary system, however online diaries have been used sporadically during COVID-impacted surveys during the past two years.

CRA chair and Southern Cross Austereo CEO, Grant Blackley, admitted the radio industry was playing catch-up to create a measurement system that reflects the modern radio listener.

“After consultation with key industry stakeholders, in recognition of the changing behaviour of our growing digital audiences and the need to accurately capture and report on this increasing consumption, the industry has moved forward with GfK in developing a hybrid measurement system,” he said.

“Australians are increasingly consuming radio through digital platforms. More than 2.7 million people are listening to radio each week through their smartphones. The industry’s investment in a hybrid measurement system will allow advertisers to connect to known, targeted audiences at scale.”

CRA chief executive officer Joan Warner said the change was absolutely necessary. “The overhaul of the radio ratings will future-proof the system and better capture listening everywhere, on every device.

“Digitisation and innovation adopted across the radio sector have removed any limitations to listening – radio is now genuinely ubiquitous, and we need a measurement system capable of capturing that.”

“By putting the right technology and methodology in place, we are ensuring that we are able to do justice to the full scale and opportunity of our audience in the eyes of advertisers, now and into the future.”

Transition to the Radio360 system will begin in late 2021, with a proportion of survey respondents to start using an e-diary from survey six, while maintaining the annual sample size at 60,000. That number will increase as paper diaries are phased out.

In early 2022, the new system will begin to include streaming data. Four hundred consumers in each metro market will begin wearing a watch that will detect when the wearer is in listening range of a radio broadcast, totalling 2,000 listeners.

The wearable device will provide encrypted anonymised data, which will be used to ensure the streaming data is accurate and deduplicated. Streaming data will then be integrated with broadcast data, accredited via Gold Standard radio analysis software.

GfK managing director, Australia and New Zealand, Dr Morten Boyer, said: “GfK is excited to partner with CRA to make hybrid radio audience measurement a reality following a rigorous and thorough testing and development period.

“Australia is one of the strongest radio markets in the world and the first to embrace this exciting approach, both from a methodological and data science perspective.”

Peter Horgan, Omnicom Group CEO and chair of the Media Federation Australia (MFA), said: “We welcome CRA’s move to evolve radio audience measurement to better reflect listening behaviour.

“As radio consumption becomes increasingly sophisticated, it makes sense that measurement follows suit. This will allow agencies to make more informed media planning and buying decisions on behalf of their clients, ultimately improving radio campaign effectiveness,” he said.

MFA chief executive officer, Sophie Madden, said: “The MFA fully supports this exciting direction for radio audience measurement and the goal to develop new best-practice solutions.”

The current paper-diary radio ratings system has been criticised for some years now. As recently as July, Mumbrella editor-at-large asked whether the radio ratings are the industry’s “greatest confidence trick” on an episode of the Mumbrellacast.

Speaking as part of a debate at Mumbrella360 in 2017, Hardhat founder Dan Monheit said: “Let’s spare a thought for the almost 12,000 participants out there completing radio surveys in 2017. These guys take with nothing more than good intentions a paper diary, ballpoint pens and fucking stickers, these poor guys and gals are required to manually fill out this paper diary every 15 minutes for an entire week.

“That’s over 400 manual entries per participant. And what is even crazier than taking out your workbook in rush hour traffic with no incentive is that the industry openly acknowledges that this is a memory test, people are asked what they remember listening to. I don’t even remember my kid’s birthdays.

“These metrics are driving $1 billion of advertising spending in this country, what the fuck is going on here? Total fucking bullshit.”

Check out the full debate on digital metrics, below:


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