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Nielsen’s Move Toward “Absolute Audio Measurement”

Nielsen_Logo_(Color)Nielsen Ratings, which acquired Arbitron last month, has announced its first change to the way things were done formerly. I’m sure it will not be the last. In a pre-survey bulletin issued prior to the upcoming November ppm survey period, Nielsen told stations that they will begin crediting stations that stream a particular program and then repeat the show in a continuous streamed loop, provided the listening is done within 24 hours of the original program, and also provided that the entire program, commercials and all, remain intact.

It’s a move that both signals Nielsen’s intent to move toward more comprehensive measurement of streaming audio, while at the same time offering a lollipop to some broadcasters that worked hard to prevent Arbitron from complete and fair measurement of streaming audio services. According to Inside Radio, “It’s a rule that most typically impacts morning hosts whose shows repeat on a continuous loop online.  For instance, Clear Channel has created replay channels for syndicated hosts including Elvis Duran, Kane and Bobby Bones.” Now the host of those streams will receive credit for all the listeners to that program, whether they listen live or on-demand.

Arbitron had a tough time doing the right thing when it came to measurement of new kinds of audio, and a lot of the reason for that was the stronghold that radio broadcasters had on the company. (Read a lot more about the history of that here.)

I’m sure this is the first of many changes that Nielsen will make to its measurement of audio. Last December, right after they announced their intent to purchase Arbitron, they announced that they would begin measurement of streaming platforms such as Pandora. They echoed that again in their announcement that the deal was done. On their website, they’re calling it “absolute audio measurement.” Amen…

 

 

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Nielsen Will Measure Pandora

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News that Nielsen will purchase Arbitron is good news for online radio services like Pandora. Nielsen, which measures many media segments, already has a strong foothold in digital and cross platform measurement, not only in the US but globally. Yesterday’s announcement that they will purchase Arbitron was quickly followed by statements that they will measure online radio services like Pandora as well.

I call this excellent news. Arbitron, which has dallied in Internet radio measurement several times in the past, recently denied Pandora a place at the table when they sought to be measured alongside broadcast radio counterparts. Pressure from those broadcasters, who spend a lot of money with Arbitron, certainly appeared to be one of the reasons that the company decided to measure streaming only as an adjunct to broadcasts. That decision enraged advertising agencies as well as online only services.

I think Nielsen’s entry into radio and digital audio measurement would be an excellent thing for the marketplace. Their multi-media measurement platform and global footprint likely mean that broadcasters won’t be able to flex their muscle to influence company decisions that are better made with a broad perspective. Nielsen is a company that understands that today’s advertisers need measurement tools that can enable accurate media placement across many platforms and technologies. Folding radio into that mix can benefit radio as advertisers are able to view it as an important part of a larger multi media landscape.

Pandora Is Giving Agencies What They Want

The most recent ratings related press release from Pandora arrived this week, touting that “National audience metrics for June 2012 show that among the adult 18-49 demographic (demo), Pandora has a weekly cume of 25,333,249” – up 6% from March Webcast Metrics audience data. But here’s the big news, straight from the announcement:

The June 2012 Triton Webcast Metrics ratings rank Pandora as the largest adult 18-49 radio network in the U.S. when compared to radio networks in the Arbitron June 2012 RADAR 113 report.”

Pandora now provides monthly AQH and Cume ratings in three key demos in the top ten markets, something which has gone a long way in helping them gain favor with ad agencies. Pandora Chief Revenue Officer John Trimble said, ” These metrics are helping the radio advertising industry make informed buying decisions between terrestrial and internet radio.”

silver platter

You got that right. Starcom Executive Vice President of Local Activation Kevin Gallagher said, “It’s no secret that an increasing amount of audio is consumed online. With Triton Webcast Metrics ratings, we will be able to compare, as well as combine, audience delivery within the entire audio ecosystem. It’s important to provide advertisers with a holistic view of the entire radio audience to help them understand the internet radio opportunity and value proposition.”

It’s what the agencies want, numbers that make it easy to compare, analyze and make informed buying decisions. Pandora’s offering it on a silver platter and the agencies are eating it up..

 

 

 

Pandora’s Local Market Clout

Pandora released audience data today showing that they have grown their audience by 50% or more in top markets across the country in the past year. Releasing data that compares January’s audience stats with “holiday 2011” stats, Pandora now claims to have a 1.0 rating with Adults 18-34 in top markets across the country. 

The report uses audience information provided by Pandora and analyzed by Edison Research using methodology that resembles that used by Arbitron, however, they make no specific comparisons to Arbitron’s reports or other stations in their press release. Releasing audience data in this form enables advertisers and agencies to assimilate Pandora’s audience reach with traditional broadcast radio stations’ reach. This assimilation of data and direct comparison to broadcast audience data is precisely the kind of thing that some broadcasters are trying to prevent.

It’s a powerful statement about Pandora’s popularity that they are able to deliver a 1.0 rating in all of the top ten markets in the US with Adults 18-34. You can read the press release here.

 

Arbitron’s Internet Radio Measurement Headache

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In 2003 I started a company called Net Radio Sales that was designed, in large part, to offer a sales solution to streaming broadcast radio stations. Later that year I met with an Arbitron executive to discuss their decision to shut down server based streaming measurement and shift to census based measurement through comScore. I told Arbitron that broadcasters in particular would suffer from that because their streaming audiences were small and local, and would never show up on a national panel. At the time, Arbitron told me that they had two clients  (AOL and Yahoo) who were pushing them to move to panel based measurement, and since they were the only two paying clients, the decision had been made. They shuttered Measurecast and moved to estimating streaming audiences based on comScore panel behavior. In case you don’t know the rest, a few years later they abandoned that game as well.

I’ll bet Arbitron wishes they had stayed in server based streaming measurement way back then, because what they had was a platform that measured everyone – streaming broadcast and online only stations, all together. Which brings us to the topic of the day. Now, Arbitron has a bunch of clients who want things done a certain way. Again. This time it’s their broadcast radio clients, and they want Arbitron to measure streaming broadcast stations and online only stations separately. Not just separately but differently, so that the ratings cannot be easily combined.

It’s a problem for Arbitron because their broadcast radio clients pay them a lot of money and they don’t want to alienate them. Those clients want Arbitron to measure their streams – in such a way that they can roll up their broadcast and streaming audiences into one and sell that total audience to advertisers. And they don’t want to be compared to online stations.

And then we have Pandora. Pandora has a large audience – large enough that they can now claim to have more listeners in many markets than some broadcast stations. And they are claiming that – by working with research firm Edison Research, who has helped them crunch numbers and make comparisons. Using standard calculations that are not proprietary.

Under pressure from its clients, Arbitron recently sent out a letter intended to dissuade buyers from using the data that Pandora, with the help of Edison, has been releasing, stating: “We strongly advise clients to avoid comparing self-reported audience estimates from Internet music services to Arbitron radio audience estimates…” They offer several reasons why it’s a bad idea, including claiming that there’s no way to know if anyone is really listening. Really. The most overused objection to radio, the objection that every salesperson in the world learned to overcome in Radio 101? I just really think it’s the pot calling the kettle black on that one. {Editor’s note: unfortunately, the letter has been deleted from the news site where it was posted}.

But on to the thing that really concerns me. Arbitron says comparisons between broadcast streams and online streams can’t be made because there is a vast difference between “one to one” and “one to many” streaming audiences. They’ve created an imaginary line to justify measuring the two categories separately and differently. Supposedly, because “one to many” audiences are all exposed to the message simultaneously while “one to one” listeners are exposed to the message during their unique sessions, the data is different and cannot be assimilated.

Huh?

“This is an absolutely meaningless distinction”  says Kurt Hanson, Publisher of RAIN: Radio and Internet Newsletter and Founder of AccuRadio, an online station. “Case in point: If Samuel Adams wants to deliver  one million impressions of a commercial to listeners in the 4pm hour next Friday (to use a simplified example), they can either buy (A) a couple dozen top AM/FM radio stations, in which case the WAAA listeners will hear it at 4:08pm, the WBBB listeners will hear it at 4:10pm, the WCCC listeners will hear it at 4:13pm, and so forth, or (B) they can buy their desired demographic slice of the audience of a brand like Pandora, in which case some listeners will hear it at 4:01pm, some will hear it at 4:02pm, and so forth.  In BOTH scenarios, not all of the target consumers are hearing the spot at the same exact moment!  That’s never been important to the advertiser.  Both scenarios are precisely the same, in terms if effect, for Samuel Adams.”

I asked one of the smartest agency folks I know – Natalie Swed Stone, US Director, National Radio Investment, OMD, what she thought. She pointed me to her write up for RBR, which she wrote a few weeks ago, and I highlight this quote: “The research has to follow the investment patterns. The more uniform the data, the easier it will be–but marketers and agencies will continue to buy what they want and use best available research to evaluate and estimate behavior.” In other words, research firms should offer data based on the ways that buyers want to buy. If the research does not do that, buyers will do what they have to.

Network radio has been adding up time shifted audiences(that are not hearing the message simultaneously) for decades. It’s completely acceptable to represent a network audience’s AQH as the sum of the AQH’s of audiences across the country listening to a program on hundreds of stations at different times. Arbitron’s RADAR product does this. “When we buy national schedules—they can air on different stations at different times—within the prescribed daypart…” Swed Stone told me, “in TV, the currency is currently live plus 3 days (DVR) etc  and the currency is the same –even if a person plays back the program 3 days later –it is included in the overall rating.”

To check my thinking on this topic, I spent a lot of time calling and emailing digitally savvy radio people, asking them about this issue. None of my broadcast sources would go on the record, but they uniformly told me that this is a spin game. No one thought the “one to one” and “one to many” distinction holds any water at all. “It’s not intellectually sound.” I was told.

Arbitron is caught in a tough situation. As a research firm, they’re obligated to create products that are fair and objective. But some of their clients don’t want them to do that in a uniform platform. The listening landscape is rapidly evolving into a space that includes new audio platforms. Ultimately, advertisers and listeners will decide the landscape – listeners will listen to what they want to hear and advertisers will spend to reach them.

The audio landscape has never been more diverse and interesting. Pandora, with its enormously popular platform is bringing new advertisers into the space, and this could be a big win for the industry. Grow the pie! Adapting to new dynamics would be time better spent that shoveling sand against the tide..

Triton Announces Local Market Measurement Product for Internet Radio

All of the data available in Triton’s Media Rating Council (MRC) accredited national monthly rankers will now be available on a local market level, per an announcement yesterday by Triton Digital. Triton’s Webcast Metrics audience data will now be made available to subscribers on a local market by market basis. The updated solution will enable publishers to highlight their audience metrics within individual markets and combinations of markets as well as segment the audience across demographic attributes within geographies.

Unlike the top 20 ranker that Triton releases monthly, local data garnered through Webcast Metrics will not be released publicly. It will be the exclusive property of the subscribing publisher.

“We believe there is a substantial monetization opportunity for publishers within the local digital and mobile marketplace,” said Mike Agovino, COO of Triton Digital. “Local mobile advertising alone is expected to grow by more than $2 billion over the next several years, and this evolution of Webcast Metrics will further assist our customers in fully capitalizing on this market opportunity.”

This development has been in the making for a while – I know that Triton has been examining their local market reporting for a while with something like this in mind. And Pandora, the most listened to Internet radio station on Triton’s rankers, has been stepping up the demand for market by market ratings. In fact, a few months ago Pandora partnered with research firm Edison Research and began releasing hybrid local market ratings using Triton’s Webcast Metrics data and standard AQH formulas and comparing them to ratings and shares in Arbitron‘s local market broadcast reports.

Which caused a furor among broadcasters and their spokespeople who believe that broadcast radio should only be measured in a vacuum and never compared to other audio content sources like Internet radio or satellite radio. Of course, that’s silly — any ad supported audio content will ultimately have to measure up to any other to demonstrate performance and garner ad investments.

The fact that Triton will release local market audience data to subscribers is a great thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s been available to them for a while, but the formal announcement and new product called Webcast Metrics Local ups the ante. Competition is good. It spurs development, keeps everyone on their toes, and is a sign of a thriving industry. Play on…

SNL Kagan Sees A Billion Dollar Market For Internet Radio In Ten Years

SNL Kagan and Senior Analyst Robin Flynn have produced a 2011 report on the Economics of Internet Music and Radio that’s very comprehensive and insightful. Using existing data points from RAB’s quarterly revenue reports, publicly available financials on Pandora, and research from Triton Digital and Arbitron on audience, SNL Kagan provides an excellent summary of the marketplace and its players, both online only and radio broadcasters.

Digital/online ad revenue will become an increasingly important and larger portion of radio’s revenues. The report pegs annual revenue for 2011 attributable to digital/online, including website, streaming, hd, and other digital sources, at $713 million for 2011. That number will grow to $1.55 billion in 2021 and comprise 7% of radio’s overall revenues.

Internet only stations will grow revenue at a faster rate – coming from $293 million projected annual revenues in 2011, that number will be $365 million in 2012 but reach $1 billion in 2021. Those projections are based only on ad revenues and do not include revenue from subscription or song download sales.

Pandora’s IPO has provided insight to the business model for an Internet radio station, and it’s a challenging one thanks to the enormous share of revenues that are owed in royalties. SoundExchange takes 45% of Pandora’s revenues and leaves them still losing money after ten years. The report quotes several radio broadcast company CEOs discussing the expense of streaming thanks to those issues as well. But most agree it’s a channel that they can’t afford to ignore.

Internet radio’s audience is growing, and connected devices are expanding the audience and time spent listening. Optimizing cpms for targeted mobile ads is a critical piece for Pandora in overcoming the digital royalty expense. Interestingly, SNL Kagan has projected that Pandora will take 4% of 2011 mobile ad revenues in the US, ranking fifth behind Google, Apple, Yahoo and Twitter.

 

Arbitron Partners With AdsWizz

Arbitron has announced a deal with Euorpean based online audio ad serving and measurement company Adswizz which signals their intention to return to server based streaming audience measurement. During an earnings call, EVP/COO Sean Creamer reported that Arbitron signed an agreement with Adswizz last week.

“AdsWizz will process the server-based, streaming log files exclusively for our planned digital radio service. This collaboration is designed to help us to realize our vision for providing standard reporting metrics for over the air and digital streaming audiences on behalf of our current radio broadcast customers and for digital music service clients. We are currently working with both our radio station clients and the digital service providers to develop the first report deliverables.”

Arbitron departed from server based streaming audio measurement when it purchased and subsequently shuttered Measurecast in 2004. Earlier this year they announced a plan to develop a comprehensive streaming audio measurement solution. A server based streaming audio measurement solution would put Arbitron in direct competition with Triton Digital’s Webcast Metrics, which currently measures services including Pandora, iHeartradio, Slacker, CBSRadio, AccuRadio and others.

Creamer’s announcement also promises a solution for current radio broadcast customers and digital music service clients. While it may seem obvious that the only way to produce a credible streaming measurement platform is to include both streaming broadcast and online only services, I had heard rumors that some of the broadcast clients of Arbitron were opposed to a solution that included online services like Pandora and Slacker. I’m hoping everyone has come to their senses on this point.

Competition in audience measurement of streaming can only be a good thing as it will encourage continued development of each solution’s capabilities. It’s also a good sign of a thriving industry…

Study: Listeners Love AM/FM Streams More than AM/FM Broadcasts

Americans are spending more time in their cars, time spent in cars on weekdays has increased by over an hour since 2003. Last week, Arbitron, Edison Research and Scarborough presented an update to a study from 2003 called The Road Ahead that looks at in-car listening options and adoptions.

While radio continues to the the audio listening choice in cars, its dominance has dropped by 12% since 2003. Back then 1% of people chose satellite radio, and listening to ipods and Internet radio streams was not an option. Now, 8% of folks who have driven or ridden in a car in the last month have listened to satellite radio, and a whole slew of new choices have bubbled up to compete with AM/FM broadcast radio. 6% listened to a Pandora stream, 4% to an AM/FM stream, and 2% to another non-Pandora stream. (The numbers are not exclusive so we can’t add them up).

The study also looked at the way people “feel” about various listening platforms, and the results are very insightful. At the top of the list of things people “love” listening to in their car is satellite radio with 54%. 34% “love” listening to Pandora via a mobile phone. And 30% love listening to AM/FM streams via a mobile phone, while 28% “love” listening to the same content on their AM/FM radio. New technologies, notes the study, get better “love” ratings, even if the content is the same..

Despite a proliferation of new in-car technologies, radio remains the “king”. But that’s not a license to be complacent, cautions the study. Instead, radio should recognize that “digital platforms are crucial to protecting radio’s in-car franchise. In fact, the authors of the study believe that HD radio has the ability to “provide the ‘wow’ factor for AM/FM in-car radio. This must be based on the higher “love” ranking that HD Radio gets among people that have it.

Every Listener Counts

With Pandora moving to release radio-like ratings in top ten markets, there’s a lot of focus on Internet radio ratings these days. Some broadcast radio traditionalists are trying to argue against the validity of those ratings, but the reality is that Pandora has large amounts of listeners in the top ten markets (and probably beyond). With server based measurement and registered user targetability, it’s easy to verify that audience and deliver impressions to them. They are a viable competitor for radio dollars in those marketplaces, and foolish is the buyer that refuses to consider them, especially for younger demographic buys where their presence is especially significant.

Now Arbitron, as told to Inside Radio last week, is preparing to launch its “total audience measurement initiative” in the coming year which will offer measurement options for streaming broadcast stations as well as online only “pureplay” stations such as Pandora. Details are sketchy and rumors – such as Arbitron in talks to purchase Triton Digital’s Webcast Metrics audience measurement service – abound.

If indeed Arbitron is moving in the direction of offering a service that will enable stations to bundle up their audiences – online, over the air, mobile, etc., that will be a good thing. Gone are the days when the only way to count listeners is to make sure they are all hearing the same thing at the same time. Stations need to be able to nimbly separate or aggregate listeners from different platforms, target messages to them, and report listening to advertisers precisely. Tools that enable that will help win dollars.

These are interesting days for the industry. Audience measurement platforms that provide better data will benefit everyone.

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