The measurement of traditional radio as well as radio streamed via the internet and mobile phones will be included in an enhanced ratings system from 2009 as part of a new contract, it was announced today. The radio industry recently held a competitive tender for the radio audience measurement surveys which has been won by Nielsen Media Research (NMR).

Chief executive officer of Commercial Radio Australia, Joan Warner, said the range of positive developments included in the new contract will further boost the reliability and responsiveness of the survey system, while at the same time maintaining its existing high standard and credibility.

“The enhancements to the radio ratings system, included as part of the new contract, will provide a greater range of data to radio stations and survey subscribers and reflect the industry’s response to changes in listening habits over the past few years,” Ms Warner said.

The ratings system will remain diary-based but will, significantly, change from household flooding (one diary given for each member of a household) to single person placement (one diary given to one person in the house) which will allow for much closer management of diary keepers and of demographic groups within the survey. From 2009, it may also be possible for people to fill out the diary online following an online diary trial to be conducted in 2008.

“These enhancements should make completing the survey diary easier by providing people with even better training and greater choice in how they fill it out. People taking the radio survey diary will now be the only household member receiving a diary and will receive direct comprehensive training which means better control of the process, demographics and potentially improved outcomes from the collection of data,” Ms Warner said.

“The introduction of sticker diaries, using pre-printed stickers instead of pre-printed diaries, will also provide greater flexibility for people filling out the surveys. It also acknowledges the multi-channeling that may occur as digital radio rolls out in metropolitan areas in 2009.”

The main features of the new ratings system include:
• Single person placement to replace household flooding in metropolitan markets while maintaining the same sample sizes.
• Diary to be 24 hour diary (previously the midnight to dawn timeslot was surveyed only once a year)
• Sticker diaries to be introduced in 2009
• Online completion of the diary to be trailed in 2008 with a view to introducing a choice at diary placement of online or paper based diaries
• Platform measurement to be trialled in 2008 including traditional radio, internet/PC; mobile phone and digital radios.

Nielsen has been awarded the contract for three years from 2009-2011, with an opportunity for a two year extension and was chosen from three companies: Ipsos; Nielsen and Roy Morgan Research.

The ratings will continue to be conducted eight times a year in five metropolitan markets; Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth as well as four regional markets: three surveys in Newcastle; two in the Gold Coast and Canberra.

The new, enhanced survey methodology means an increase in cost for radio stations which will be equally met by all participating stations.

“The commercial radio industry regards the new approach as a significant step forward for the survey system,” said Michael Anderson, Chair of Commercial Radio Australia and CEO of Austereo. “We have adopted an attitude of continuous improvement in relation to the survey system and resultant data. We have conferred with stakeholders such as the MFA and their input has been vital in moving forward and planning for the future.”

The Chair of the industry Research Committee, Kingsley Hall of DMG Radio said, “This tender process called for genuine enhancements to our audience measurement process which would benefit all industry participants - Nielsen responded accordingly and we look forward to working with Nielsen to achieve them.”

“By including platform measurement and on line diary trialling in the new agreement we aim to ensure radio keeps pace with its audience’s listening habits,” Mr Hall said

Peter Cornelius, Managing Director of Nielsen Media said, “We are delighted and extremely proud to be appointed by Commercial Radio Australia as their research partner for this new tender period. Our Nielsen submission centred around the very high level of client service and the world class existing systems and procedures of our current offering. In addition to this we are embracing many of the new challenges of the changing media landscape built around advancement in technology. We believe Commercial Radio is perfectly positioned to play an even more significant role in the media mix in the future and The Nielsen Company is excited to be part of that process”

Ms Warner said the new tender did not include specific electronic proposals given no credible electronic testing device was yet available worldwide. However, a technical trial of the Nielsen Media Research IMMI Phone Meter trial is currently underway in Australia with further tests of other devices planned if appropriate.

“The industry is aware of the criticisms leveled at the diary system. The changes included as part of this tender are aimed to improve outcomes for the broader radio and advertising sectors and hopefully will address many concerns,” Ms Warner said

“The diary system remains the only proven and reliable ratings method used around the world at present, but we are continually monitoring all advancements in electronic testing and are currently involved in a technical trial of the Nielsen mobile-phone device,” Ms Warner said.

Ms Warner said the industry had concerns about the electronic testing devices currently available and tests conducted so far which show three major areas of concern with electronic testing: an unexplained drop in breakfast listening; problems with compliance; and a cost of up to three times the diary system.

“It is imperative that the Australian radio audience measurement system remains the best in the world so the industry wants to ensure any electronic testing device is credible and provides accurate information before embarking on an expensive trial,” Ms Warner said.