Radio industry to test digital measurement system

The radio industry is to take some of its first steps towards an electronic system to increase the accuracy and speed of how it measures and reports audiences.

Two initiatives are under way. The first, less radical, one will see some listeners completing online listening diaries to complement the paper diary system.

And the industry is also to trial electronic “people meters” where actual listening will be recorded rather than asking consumers to fill out a diary.  

The current system, run by Nielsen, sees diaries distributed at random, with listeners completing a log of their weekly listening habits. Each of the five major metro radio markets has around 2000 diaries gathering data during any given survey period. This infromation is then collated for the industry’s eight survey releases each year.

A common criticism of the system is that consumers do not keep track every 15 minutes of what they are actually listening to, but complete the diaries later based on what they best recall. This potentially skews share in favour of the highest profile – and most heavily marketed – stations.

While people meters would potentially address that drawback, there are still potential difficulties based around people remembering to carry the equipment with them – and the accuracy in how the meters capture the data.

One source close to the process  told Mumbrella: “The best solution is the hybrid approach. A paper system is better suited to oldies, online for the youngsters and people metersfor those more comfortable with personal devices.”

Also planned are changes to the recruitment process for monitoring listening habits. Currently, people are approached by knocking on doors at weekends – which tends to skew the demographic towards older participants and talkback stations. Recruitment over the phone may be introduced.

Radio is the latest major medium to upgrade the way it measures its audiences. The outdoor industry introduced the MOVE measurement system in February last year. The online industry launched its own in October.

The major hurdle for Commercial Radio Australia is cost – the people meters would be likely to increase the cost of the ratings. It is unclear which vendors are competing for the contract.

Last week, the radio industry released modest figures of 1.1% growth for 2011.


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