Radio industry split over change to definition of listening
LONDON – Advertisers and broadcasters are at odds in their expectations of what the new definition of radio listening should be when a new electronic measurement methodology is introduced, according to the results of a Rajar industry consultation.
Rajar said the responses revealed a broad endorsement of its approach so far to the measurement change and a general acceptance that a new methodology using audiometers will be introduced.
But it also revealed variances in expectations of any new system and widespread anxiety over the costs of implementation.
The consultation, 'The Future Requirements of Radio Audience Research' ran from April to October 2004 and attracted more than 300 responses from the BBC, commercial radio, advertisers, agencies and measurement system providers.
Rajar has set itself a timetable to change the measurement system over from the current diary methodology to an audiometer methodology by 2007. It is currently analysing the results of tests conducted in November on three audiometers, and plans to draw up a new research contract tender in the next few months.
The consultation shows industry divisions over what the definition of radio listening should be under any audiometer system. Currently, Rajar asks its panel of listeners to record any listening periods of more than five minutes.
According to Rajar's summary of the responses: "The future definition could be based on passive exposure (being present when a radio is nearby) for a period as short as one or two minutes. The difference can be summarised as listening versus hearing.
"Views of stakeholders were widely divergent on this issue. Many advertisers and agencies in particular were keen to include all exposure to radio as valid impacts."
Rajar said that others were concerned with the robustness and whether this would dilute the traditional value of engagement, which has been attributed to radio.
"There was concern within commercial radio and the BBC that this would make the data less useful for marketing and programming purposes."
The majority of the industry said that the new measurement system should be platform-specific, ie record whether listening is to analogue or digital stations.
Another issue was the lack of consensus about the frequency with which data should be produced. "While the drive from advertisers was more towards the greatest possible frequency, this was tempered by the agencies and stations expressing considerable concerns over the practical realities of trading and costs."
However, there was agreement within the industry on other matters, including that Rajar should continue to provide a single measurement survey covering BBC and commercial radio.
Rajar should also change how its sampling structure covers listening by geographical area, the responses indicated.
Rajar's managing director Sally de la Bedoyere said: "We now have a far clearer picture of the needs of the industry and the feedback we have received will help enormously in framing the specification for the new contract, which we will be drawing up in the next few months."
The summary of the consultation findings is available at Rajar's website.
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