The number-crunching for Nielsen's first set of radio ratings is complete. The analysis brings some good news for radio broadcasters -- and (not coincidentally) Nielsen. As the research giant drums up interest in its new radio ratings service, it's positioned to compete with Arbitron in dozens of midsized markets.
Nielsen's March and April survey of 119,000 consumers, representing 14 million people in 51 markets across the country, contained a couple of pieces of good news for the radio business.
To begin, Nielsen's findings suggest that young adults ages 18-34 are listening to just as much radio as the population at large, clocking an average 21.5 hours per week. Even better, the young, tech-savvy consumers that dominate its cell phone-only sample -- 15% of the total sample -- actually listen to radio more than average, clocking 23 hours per week.
Here, the Nielsen research seems to counter the common assumption that radio -- which for the most part remains a traditional broadcast medium -- is losing the younger adult audience to digital alternatives, like iPods and MP3 players.
Of course, Nielsen was quick to note its own achievements, contrasting them -- implicitly but unmistakably -- with the limitations of Arbitron's ratings service. Foremost, Nielsen claims that its sample in the survey covered 98% of the measured population, including a more representative proportion of cell phone-only households.
Over the last year, Nielsen has also been promoting its diary-based radio ratings service for mid-sized markets, claiming its sticker-based diaries deliver more accurate data than Arbitron's diaries, which require panelists to write down what radio stations they listen to.
Arbitron is aware of -- and responding to -- its rival's effort to poach mid-sized radio markets. Like Nielsen, Arbitron is appealing to radio broadcasters in need of good news with positive research findings. It's also touting prospect of new measurement documenting radio's continued vitality.
Last week, Arbitron unveiled a program to create a metric that will gauge consumer "affinity" for both the radio medium in general and for specific radio stations versus their competitors. This promises to aid radio ad sales teams trying to differentiate themselves from competitors. By convincing advertisers that its audience is not simply a commodity, radio can charge more for inventory.