Nielsen Keeps Investing In The Wrong Measurement Tech
Recently Nielsen announced it was upgrading 47 additional “Diary” markets to PPM measurement in July, 2019. When you add those cities to the existing 48 PPM markets, Nielsen will finally have automated measurement in most of the top 100 metros. Of course, that still leaves 170 mid to small markets that still have paper diary measurement, which feels like something out of the Eisenhower era.
While Nielsen touts its PPM expansion as progress towards modernizing radio measurement, I’d argue that they’re still investing in the wrong thing. Even though PPM is light years better than Diaries, it’s still a 1990s-era technology with the look and feel of the beepers some of us used to wear before cell phones came along. Since PPM requires panelists to wear the devices continuously for a week it’s hard to get younger listeners to participate. As a result Nielsen is chronically short on panelists, which forces them to weight up the data from younger and minority audiences. This under-participation/overweighting ends up watering down the statistical accuracy of PPM ratings, which further inhibits radio’s ability to compete against digital measurement methods.
So if more PPM devices aren’t the solution for radio audience measurement what is? One suggestion might be to development app-based tracking which can be downloaded and measured directly from panelists’ mobile devices. Dozens of third party apps already measure everything from the websites we visit to the places we go, so there has to be a way to log when a mobile device gets within earshot of a radio station’s signal.
If I were still on the broadcast radio side of audio, I’d be beating down Nielsen’s door for an innovation like this.