Haley’s Beef: Where’s The Cume?

The latest Webcast Metrics audience reports are out for August 2011, and the lineup of stations on the ranker remains pretty much the same. Pandora sits atop with nearly half a million session starts. Below them, CBSRadio’s network of streams has 58 million session starts and Clear Channel’s group of streams has 54 million. Citadel, Slacker, Entercom, Cox, ESPNRadio, Cox, Digitally Imported and EMF round out the list of top ten streaming networks. Cumulus is in the 11th position – look for that group to combine with Citadel in the coming months now that the Cumulus purchase of Citadel is done.

This month, for variety I have decided to look at session starts and tsl instead of AAS. Pandora is holding steady at a tsl of .80 – meaning that was the average duration of the nearly 500 million session starts that they saw last month. Pandora’s tsl is shorter than Clear Channel’s and CBSRadio’s, though not by a lot. Slacker’s is .69. Topping the ranker in terms of length of listening session are Salem, Hubbard and AccuRadio.

At The Radio Show last month, RAB president Jeff Haley remarked in his opening speech that Pandora’s audience claims aren’t fair because they’re not using a cume number that represents unique listeners. That numbers of sessions, duration of sessions and tsl don’t tell the story of how many individuals the platform is reaching. This is a valid point – Webcast Metrics rankers do provide data useful for comparing the services against each other and for determining impression based advertising values, but the data does not give an accurate picture of the number of unique individuals that a station reaches.

Determining uniques shouldn’t be a difficult data point for server based audience measurement, although I’m thinking that each device a person listens on would have to be a unique. That could then be factored by the average number of devices a person uses if a buyer wanted to get a truer representation of the station’s cume.

I’m all for transparency and this seems like a good point to pursue. Here’s the ranker:

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