Old ‘Radio Listening’ measurement charts no longer tell the full story | radioinfo

Old ‘Radio Listening’ measurement charts no longer tell the full story

Sunday 13 May, 2018

Opinion from Steve Ahern

I was at a conference last week where several speakers presented charts purporting to show that ‘radio listening’ was declining.
Then they went on to draw conclusions based on those wrong and misleading statistics.
If you search statistics about media consumption on the internet you will find hundreds of charts showing how ‘radio listening’ is drastically declining and internet and smart phone usage is growing. Some are propagated by statistical analysis firms (sometimes associated with digital advertising organisations), while others are put out by reputable survey companies that should know better.
Showing statistics that use the definition of radio as a traditional radio hardware device are now no longer relevant. Radio is the business we are in, it is no longer just the device we listen on.
If you measure radio listening based on radio device usage, of course the stats will show radio listening as declining.  But people are no longer just listening to radio on traditional radio receiver devices. They are listening to radio on streams via the radio station’s webpage, on smartphones through aggregators such as TuneIn, RadioPlayer and RadioApp, and they are listening through individual radio station apps.
Surely all of this is ‘radio listening’ too. Perhaps we should call it ‘radio station listening’ to help define it more clearly.
Why are we still accepting old methodology that is clearly no longer relevant?
When I see charts like the ones below, I want to dive deeper into the smartphone and/or internet categories to find out how much of that consumption is radio listening (ie, listening to a radio station).

To those who are still presenting charts like these, stop it. Just stop it!
When I see charts like these, I want to move the component of radio listening consumption to the radio column, increasing radio and decreasing the internet or smartphone columns. Only then will I really know how much listening to radio stations is going on in comparison to other consumption, via device agnostic reporting.

Radio ratings measurement systems will be seen as obsolete if they do not tell us (and our advertisers) how many people are listening to our radio stations and for how long they are listening, on any device.
Australia has moved forward on this issue with its Share of Audio and Infinite Dial studies.  In Britain the RAJAR MIDAS research is similarly on the right track, by focusing on listening not device.
But elsewhere around the world and on the internet, out of date methodologies are still around.
Yes, I know it is difficult to combine all the different research methods, definitions of listening and device studies together in one single currency, but not presenting real listening figures is a disadvantage to the world radio industry.
Radio associations around the world need to be having tough conversations with their measurement companies to develop the right answers to this issue, so they are measuring real radio listening and presenting that data in a way that actually reflects what is happening, not an outdated device-based measurement currency that now misrepresents real listening.
Listening to devices called radios is no longer the modern reality of the radio industry. Tell me how many people are listening to my radio station and how long they are listening, on any platform.
In the future, I look forward to seeing charts giving me the total number of radio station listeners, broken down by platforms and compared with other platforms, or cluster bar graphs that show the total radio listening next to total television, newspapers, apps, etc.
In an editorial at the beginning of 2018, I suggested that this should be one of the priorities for the world radio industry this year. I still hold that view. While misleading  old-fashioned charts like the ones above continue to be used, there is still much work to be done.



About the Author

Steve is the founding editor of this website.

He is a former broadcaster, programmer, senior executive and trainer who now runs his own company Ahern Media & Training Pty Ltd.

He is a regular writer and speaker about trends in media.






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Anthony The Koala
14 May 2018 - 12:40pm
I can see Mr Ahern's point on what is not being measured. If you look at the Gfk ratings for any particular capital city, you'll find that for the particular ratings period, the total audience share in a particular market is not 100%. If you take the Sydney's ratings for example, you will find that the total ratings are between 83% and 86%. It does not explain fully what the 17% to 14% are listening or not listening. It may well be 2SM, community radio, spotify and other radio streaming services. One wonders why some stations survive even if they are not included in the main ratings surveys. It may be that some stations conduct their own research and obtain details that is not available under the main ratings system.

Then we have the DAB ratings. Why aren't the Gfk ratings for DAB presented in the same manner as the ratings for AM and FM stations? That is present two tables one table by age demographic and radio station and the other by day/time of day and radio station. The ratings from the main ratings survey could be combined with the ratings for the DAB equivalent and an overall rating can be computed for each station.

With internet radio stations the measurement of ratings would be easy to do. Remember the attempts before the internet to have specialised receivers which measures how much time a radio or television station has been switched on. There has been a history of ratings measurement technology even involving computers decoding sound samples in order to determine the listened radio station. With the internet, the particular ratings company could include in the particular radio station's stream the time, the duration and who was listening to the radio station. It can be done. A corollary is the browsing on particular websites, you see at the bottom of the browser other websites participating such as doubleclick, facebook, and other sites. You can look at the browser's cookie manager and look that there are sites you never clicked!

Overall the ratings from AM & FM, DAB and its streaming services could be collated over time and a truer ratings figure can be determined.

Anthony of exciting Belfield.
Joan Warner, CRA
15 May 2018 - 1:10pm
The GfK Radio Surveys do measure radio listening across all platforms. This includes AM/FM, DAB+, internet listening and listening via a mobile device or tablet.
16 May 2018 - 6:59pm
The current listeners that use traditional listening devices tend to be those who are not technically savvy, that is they do not know how to use modern devices to listen to radio. These people tend to be among the older group of listeners who listen to radio via the tradition "wireless" set hence the higher ratings for talkback radio
There are so many different avenues that stream various radio transmissions it is near impossible to gauge the number of listeners.
An example is my wife who listens to Neil Mitchell on 3AW every day via our ISP's forward stream. That Stream is counted as one listener even though there may be a number of listeners tuned to that stream. This also applies to all stream forwarding services.
Measuring the total number of actual listeners would require a radically new monitoring method which, unfortunately, would be also be extremely expensive and maybe never possible.

17 May 2018 - 2:48pm
Liked your piece in Radioinfo today.

The amount of time spent listening and place of listening are the requisites. The devices are secondary. Hopefully the message will be heeded.

I still wonder why the share of advertiser spend is still locked around 8 %. It has been so for many a year.
24 June 2018 - 3:58pm
Spot on Steve. Few months back consigned my radio receiver to the 'Museum', As for TV no FTA due to bad digital reception. So all 'radio + tv + whatever' comes by the internet. Wonder what non-DAB radio receiver sales would be now a days!
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