Nielsen notes dramatic listener downturn

Podcaster & former broadcaster Mark Ramsey dropped a bombshell on one of his recent Media Unplugged episodes.  Along with what has now become a common op-ed:  the evolution & migration of listeners from traditional radio to online platforms, such as streaming, Ramsey makes the statement that the Nielsen Ratings organization has noted dramatic decreases in radio listening in a number of markets.  One of these named is Seattle which apparently has experienced double-digit declines.  Ramsey states that neither Nielsen nor ad agencies have made any note of this & have kept this story very quiet. He notes: “Nielsen calls it PUR – Persons Using Radio. Essentially it tracks the TOTAL number of radio listeners by hour in each market. It’s an obscure piece of data that used to reside on the bottom of the page when rating books were…well, books. Published on paper. The use of secondary software like Tapscan means that most audience runs don’t include anything about the total listening in the market.”  However, Ramsey fails to reveal any data to back this up, or collaboration of his assertions.  In spite of this, I find it neither difficult nor unbelievable to agree with such statements regardless of any secondary sources backing up these assertions.  If indeed this is fact, it will throw some major wrenches into the entrenched system of ratings and ad revenue rates in the markets noted.  Other ‘tech savvy’ markets named in the podcast include San Fransisco, Austin & Boston.  Assuming this is the status quo, local broadcasters need to sit up, take notice and make adjustments accordingly.  This would include website streaming – at the very least –  plus increased engagement with listeners via social media, ensuring their streams can be accessed via a number of Internet search engines & streaming services – such as Streema, and of course, improving their programming & music to compete better with offerings online.  Promoting their secondary HD channels & making streams of these available would also help.  Radio stations need to be aware that listening is skewing towards older demographics & is more sporadic than in the past.  Even older demographics are slowly leaving radio behind as many find programming irrelevant or of no interest to their age group.  This is one of the fast growing segments of online listening as many cannot find the music, entertainment & info they wish to consume via conventional radio. Whether we like it or not, the evolution of public consumption of media is a changing landscape & the Nielsen organization, ad agencies & broadcasters need to adjust to the times.

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Author: Mike Cherry

retired broadcaster: on-air, MD, PD, asst PD, Prod Mgr, IT, station technician/engineer, pioneer Internet webcaster, station installation/maintenance; 12 years in commercial radio, 17 years volunteer in campus/community radio in B.C., Alberta & Wash. Amateur radio operator & "DXer" specializing in AM night-time DX, short-wave DX/listening & remote SDR DXing/listening
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