Would You Like to Participate in Radio Research?

nielsen familyNuVoodoo does some really wonderful research about radio listening. They particularly focus on reaching people who are most likely to keep a radio listening diary or wear a Nielsen Portable People Meter, aka PPM.

During their last webinar, a slide came up quickly in the jam-packed presentation that made me choke on my coffee. It showed how small the pool of radio listeners is that would participate in Nielsen Radio ratings research. An astounding 82% say they would never wear a PPM device and even more listeners say they wouldn’t keep a ratings diary. Ratings Likies 2020

I Was a Nielsen Family

When I was a radio broadcaster, it wasn’t unusual for Arbitron Ratings to ask me about keeping a radio listening diary for a week. Each time I declined because I was actively working in radio.

When I was a broadcast professor at the university in Kentucky, I was approached about keeping a television ratings diary and Nielsen said that being a broadcast teacher was not a disqualifier, so I said “yes.”

I knew that the experience of keeping a ten-day television viewing diary would be one I could share with my students in covering the topic of radio/TV ratings. I was thrilled to be a “Nielsen Family,” even though that thrill quickly dissipated once the survey diary and instructions arrived.

The few dollars Nielsen sent to me with the materials seemed small potatoes for the amount of information they wanted to extract from my viewing habits.

By the end of the ten days, I was sure I’d never want to do this again, and it made me sad because I was a person who should be passionate about doing such work.

A Relative’s Family Wore PPMs

A member of my family living outside of Boston was asked to participate in PPM radio research. The rewards being offered enticed them to say “yes.”

The members of the family ranged in age from 44 to 6.

I remember looking at this 6-year old playing on his swing-set and thinking, Boston radio 6+ radio ratings depended, in part, on little kids like this. It sent a chill down my spine.

Well, the family grew tired of participating very quickly. In the nutshell, they didn’t feel the inconvenience was worth the small reward paid for wearing the PPM devices.

They said the experience hardened them from ever participating in future radio or TV ratings research, besides now they rarely listen to radio anymore with Spotify being the family choice for streaming. The Spotify App keeps track of each member of the family’s listening habits, serving up just what they want to hear.

Ratings Likelies: Rare & Vital

In late June 2020, NuVoodoo fielded their sixteenth Ratings Prospects Study and they write: “we drilled down to the small segment of radio listeners likely to accept a meter or diary from Nielsen. As has been the case in every past NuVoodoo study, when we model for the subset of respondents who would say ‘yes’ to Nielsen, the opt-in rate even among our already research-inclined sample is staggeringly low – with the percentage of likely ratings respondents who spend an hour or longer with radio each day even rarer still.”

That’s pretty disturbing to hear.

Share of Ear

Then the news breaks that COVID-19 has tipped the consumer listening habits to digital streaming. Now 53% listen to on-demand/digital devices versus 47% who listen to linear/non-digital devices, like AM/FM radio. Edison Research began tracking audio consumption on digital devices in 2014 and now, only six years later, people over the age of 13 spend more time with these devices than traditional OTA radio.  Digital Devices Cross 50%

It’s another case of the inevitable happening anyway, but COVID-19 is causing changes to occur on an accelerated time frame.

Edison Research also found in their latest Infinite Dial research that new music seekers are using YouTube for music discovery versus AM/FM radio, 68% to 46%.

Dan Ariely Explains

Dan Ariely is a psychology and behavioral economics professor at Duke University. I first became aware of Dan’s work with his book Predictably Irrational.

Dan explains that “the interruption of everyday life has been an experiment showing that habits aren’t just desires; they’re behaviors cued by reminders in our environment. When we change the way we interact with our environment, a lot of seemingly ingrained habits fade away. Some of them we are better off without, like thoughtless consumption and spending.”

Since the pandemic more people who used to commute to work, began working from home. The AM/FM radio cue for listening was their vehicle’s dashboard radio, but since they were spending less time in the car and more time at home, the device for audio consumption used in the home now became dominant.

While one hopes that once people begin to commute to work again, if that even happens, the old routines – including listening to the car’s radio – might return.

However, many companies, especially the high tech ones like Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook, are moving to a permanent WFH (Work From Home) model.

Dr. Ed Cohen

One of the most recent high profile layoffs was that of Dr. Ed Cohen from Cumulus as its VP for Ratings and Research.

Radio Ink asked him about the future of AM/FM radio to which he responded:

“It’s a question of whether (the radio industry is) cutting bone and muscle rather than fat. If the radio industry continues to cut, can we put our best foot forward to not only keep current listeners spending as much time with the medium as they have in the past, but can we also convert light listeners to spend more time with radio? Commercial radio is not a charity and faced with the revenue challenges of (COVID-19), layoffs and furloughs are inevitable, but listeners don’t understand that and don’t likely care. They want to be entertained and informed. If they perceive a degradation of what they expect from us in a world of increased competition from other sources (streaming, podcasts, etc.) some will go elsewhere, accelerating a downward spiral. I hate to sound pessimistic about a medium where I’ve spent nearly my entire career (even my Ph.D. dissertation was about radio) and have no claims to be Nostradamus, but that’s the logical conclusion. I hope I’m wrong.”

Sadly, Dr. Cohen, I think you’ve got it right.

11 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

11 responses to “Would You Like to Participate in Radio Research?

  1. I had the same experience as you with the Nielsen TV diary three-plus decades ago. I was pumped to be included in their sample, but when it came to actually filling it out, I quickly realized how ridiculous an exercise it was. I was way too busy flipping channels to write it all down

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your experience in keeping a Nielsen TV Diary Mark.

      I used to shake my head during diary reviews in Beltsville, MD at Arbitron, but actually keeping a diary gave me whole new insights into the process from a participant’s point-of-view.

      In today’s world, no one really has the time to do this, let alone have it be accurate.
      -DT

      Like

  2. I fear like lots of other industries (Malls, Brick and Mortar Retail, Restaurants, etc), this period of our lives will just speed up the inevitable. It’s shortened the remaining lifespan of already dying businesses. I hope Radio isn’t one, but it well may be.

    Frank

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The obits for the glorious days of radio have been written. As I’ve said before, “radio will continue to exist in some form or fashion but the convenience of on demand everything will continue to shrink the listener base”. The huge Spotify contract of Joe Rogan is a preview of coming attractions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Darryl Parks

    And when you listen to a radio station stream it takes about a minute to realize no one is paying attention to it or putting any efforts into it. When I first read about the tipping point between digital and linear audio I thought to myself I wonder how many in radio actually get what this means? Sadly we know the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Not very encouraging, for sure….

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Paige

    I found it very interesting, and disheartening, that during a recent tornado outbreak at the Delaware Beaches no one tuned in to a radio station. Everyone around me was quoting the television meteorologists. When I checked, not one of the local radio stations was even acknowledging the rapidly changing weather or the looming danger. Who are those stations serving

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is very sad to hear Paige. But, you won’t be the first person to have reached out to me with such disturbing information.

      Unfortunately, once people find they can’t get the latest information they need from a particular source, they will seek out new sources and the chances of ever getting them back are slim & none.
      -DT

      Like

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