Recently a group of US media companies, ad agencies, and advertisers announced a plan to find new ways to measure television viewing habits. As described by the Wall Street Journal in their August 15th edition, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement aims to measure audience across TV, the web, and mobile devices.
The Wall Street Journal notes:
(Nielsen) has seen an increase in the number of challengers to its dominant position in the business of gauging the audiences commanded by TV shows. The coalition will explore options that include working with those competitors, creating a new competitor, or even working with Nielsen as a data provider.
It may surprise most radio people, but creating a coalition of agencies and broadcast companies to measure media usage is quite common in the world. The near monopolies that Nielsen in television and Arbitron in radio hold in the US are the exception rather than the rule in other parts of the world.
United Kingdom radio is measured by RAJAR, Radio Joint Audience Research Limited. This is how they describe the service:
The company is wholly owned by the RadioCentre (the trade body representing the Commercial Radio stations in the UK), and by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). RAJAR is structured as a 'deadlocked' company, Board decisions require the agreement of both parties.
In addition to BBC and the RadioCentre representation, membership of the Board and TMG recognises the interests of the advertising community, which is represented by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA). In addition a representative of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) attends Board meetings.
From 2007, the RAJAR research contractors are Ipsos-MORI for fieldwork and reporting and RSMB for weighting and sample design.
In other words, broadcasters and their advertising clients operate their own ratings service. They contract outside specialists to do the actual work, but ultimately the service answers to broadcasters.
RAJAR partnered with Arbitron for the first live test of PPM in Manchester, England. They evaluated PPM for some time and ultimately decided to use electronic diaries rather than Arbitron’s PPM. You can read more about their conclusions here.
Canadians have a similar service, BBM Canada, formerly the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement. Here’s how they describe the service:
BBM Canada is a not-for-profit, broadcast research company that was jointly established in 1944 as a tripartite cooperative by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Association of Canadian Advertisers.
Today, we are the leading supplier of radio and television audience ratings services to the Canadian broadcast advertising industry. We are one of the largest and most experienced research suppliers in the country, and we are the only Canadian research organization that is industry owned and run.
Our services include a digital broadcast-ready TV people meter system, diary surveys for our 100+ radio and television markets, and a variety of syndicated and custom research studies.
Note that while BBM uses Arbitron’s meters for television measurement, they continue to use diaries for radio measurement.
Australian broadcasters collectively contract with a single vendor for audience estimates. Nielsen is the current supplier. They use diaries very similar to those Nielsen is introducing in the United States.
Radio Broadcasters in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have a significant advantage over American broadcasters when it comes to audience measurement. The services are essentially non-profit organizations. They have control over critical technical issues including methodology, sample sizes, and data delivery.
The services are built around the needs of broadcasters and advertisers, not the needs of a publicly held company answering to Wall Street.
Since once again radio has been ignored in the creation of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, perhaps radio should take a page from our fellow radio broadcasters in other countries and form our own Innovative Media Measurement coalition. We couldn’t make things much worse than they are right now.