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GfK’s plan to overcome electronic ratings systems’ ‘incomplete level of listening’

During the following talk from 2017's Radio Alive Conference, Morten Boyer - GfK's head of media and entertainment APAC - discusses the evolving ways Australia's radio ratings are being calculated.

Radio ratings boss Morten Boyer has admitted all electronic rating methods “provide an incomplete level of listening”, but that GfK is working on an extensive five year plan to remedy these inconsistencies.

The German-headquartered global research company had its contract to carry out Commercial Radio Australia’s rating surveys extended for another five years in August after winning the tender in 2014.

At the time of the contract renewal, the company and CRA flagged they were experimenting with smartphones and apps as ways to improve audience measurements.

This week saw the results of the year’s seventh ratings survey, tracking where Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth are sitting in the penultimate book of the year.

When considering how the company would go about about the changes, Boyer said the GfK would not “be led by opinions, with respect to how the innovation and the future road map for future radio ratings should go.”

“There has been some skepticism regarding the diary method in the past,” he says. “How accurately can people actually recall in a diary their listening?”

However, Boyer points to GfK data which compares listening patterns across wearables, app meters and the traditional diary method of measurement.

He claims the similarities in patterns provide “concrete evidence of how consistent this methodology has actually proven to be, and therefore even though we are exploring new ways to measure radio, we’re beginning from an extremely robust base.”

Boyer explains that in order to avoid shifts towards a more “anti-intellectual” way of thinking, his team has made a commitment to being iterative and following a more scientific method.

“I know it’s frustratingly fashionable these days for everything to be a little bit too fast and a little bit anti-intellectual, but I do see promising renaissance movements of thinking coming back in vogue, thinking about things like design thinking, which I think takes a lot of its inspiration from a topic that I hold very dear, which is the scientific method.

“The whole idea is how we learn to be hypothesis-driven and iterative and testing things. That doesn’t mean we go slow, but it means we do things properly, and for something as important as your industry currency, it’s just too important for us not to do that properly.”

Some in the industry believe the diary method should be scrapped entirely since it relies on recall and can never be entirely accurate.

During a lunchtime debate at June’s Mumbrella360 conference, Hardhat strategy director Dan Monheit argued that radio’s more traditional methods are in serious need of a rethink, telling the audience: “These poor guys and gals are required to manually fill out this paper diary every 15 minutes for an entire week.

“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… Total fucking bullshit.”

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