Ratings Case Study: If You Made Decisions Based On This Information, You Would Be Fired…

Ratings Case Study: If You Made Decisions Based On This Information, You Would Be Fired…

by Tracy Johnson

Imagine that you are deciding the future direction of your radio station. Let’s say you are considering a format change. You commission a perceptual research project to measure the health of your brand, current opportunities and available positions in the market. The only thing you know for sure is that you want to win with 18-34 women.

The research company reports back to you with their findings based on the following sample:

W 18-24:    58 respondents

W 25-34:    89 respondents

Total W 18-34:  147 respondents

This doesn’t take into account ethnicity, primary language spoken at home or listening preferences. Just raw numbers.

And if you target 18-24 year old women (typical for a CHR), you wouldn’t even make weekly music decisions based on a sample of 58, even if they were screened by music or station preference. And this sample includes rock fans, country fans, jazz fans, Christian music listeners, etc.

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Ratings Case Study: Actual Market Data

If you make any important decisions based on information gathered from this sample, you should be fired. It’s irresponsible. I don’t know of a single responsible research company that would present this sample to a broadcaster. It’s unreliable.

Here’s the thing: That’s the actual in-tab sample from a Nielsen Ratings Report in one of the markets I work with. Not a weekly. A full report. In a Top 20 market with a population over 2 million. 58 women age 18-24 carry meters that determine the ratings for all of the stations in the market.

Millions of advertising dollars are spent based on this research. And our broadcasters are paying how much for this data? Really? We collectively sell this to our advertisers and they actually have confidence that their marketing investment is in good hands?

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I have a (fairly) strict personal code to avoid criticizing unless I can offer a solution. I have no solution to Nielsen’s sample crisis. But I have a warning to broadcasters: This must stop before our advertisers wake up and realize what their ad rates have been based on.  

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