Friday, January 28, 2011


Written by: LM


According to LM's Common Knowledge  (which means I jacked it):

Arbitron ratings tell media producers, networks, and the public how many listeners tune into particular radio programs at specific intervals. The company also analyzes the buying habits of those listeners for advertisers.


•Arbitron measures the average number of listeners to a radio program in a 15-minute increment, a rating called the average quarter hour or AQH rating, according to the company's website. Arbitron then divides the AQH for a particular station by the total AQH or all radio stations and multiply that number by 100 to get the share rating.

Arbitron ratings enable radio stations to attract advertisers seeking a consistently large audience for their commercials. High ratings for a given show encourage advertising ad agencies, marketing firms, and client businesses to purchase advertising during that show.

According to the most reliable resource on planet Earth, Wikipedia (so this could be totally wrong but it sounds cool),

Arbitron's syndicated radio ratings service collects data by selecting a random sample of a population throughout the U.S., primarily in 294 metropolitan areas, using a paper diary service two to four times a year and Portable People Meter (PPM) electronic audience measurement service 365 days a year.

The term commonly used in the radio industry for these ratings is the Arbitron book, a carryover from the era when ratings were published in a soft-cover report that was mailed to clients. More specifically, in the diary-measured markets these reports were called the Spring book, Summer book, Fall book, and Winter book. Between these "books," Arbitron releases interim monthly reports called Arbitrends, which contain data from the previous three months known as "rolling average" reports. The two interim reports would be known, for example, as "Spring, Phase I" and "Spring Phase II".

Arbitron recruits diary survey respondents to note their listening habits in a seven-day paper diary and mail it back to Arbitron. The respondents are paid a small cash incentive for their participation. Turnaround time for release of data from the end of the survey period is approximately three weeks.

After collection, the data is marketed to radio broadcasters, radio networks, cable companies, advertisers, advertising agencies, out-of-home advertising companies and the online radio industry. Major ratings products include cume (the cumulative number of unique listeners over a period), average quarter hour (AQH - the average number of people listening in a given 15-minute period), time spent listening (TSL), and market breakdowns by age, gender, and race/ethnic demographic. It is important to understand that the "cume" only counts a listener once, whereas the AQH is a product of "cume" and time spent listening. For example, if you looked into a room and saw Fred and Jane, then 15 minutes later saw Fred with Sara. The "cume" would be 3 (Fred, Jane, Sara) and the AQH would be 2 (an average of two people in the room in a given 15 minute period).

Portable People Meter

Responding to requests from its customers — radio broadcasters, ad agencies and advertisers — that expressed their interest in the collection of more accurate ratings data, Arbitron introduced the Portable People Meter (PPM) service in 2007. The PPM is a wearable portable device much like a pager or cell phone, that electronically gathers inaudible codes that identify the source of a broadcast, such as a radio station.

Arbitron recruits and compensates a cross section of consumers to wear the meter for an average of one year and up to two years. The audience estimates generated from each monthly survey is used as the buy/sell currency for radio stations and advertisers/agencies. As of December 2009, the PPM is the currency in thirty three markets including:Houston, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Long Island, Middlesex-Somerset-Union, Chicago, Los Angeles, Riverside-San Bernardino, San Francisco, Jacksonville, and San Jose. By year end 2010, 48 markets were measured using the PPM.


In the future if you are reading David Barron's Notebook and it says:  SR610 - 4.5, 790 - 3.9, 1560 - 4.1 and 97.5 - 4.2, all you have to do is apply simple math.  By the way, if you hear those figures associated with our stations, either the whole market  got an enema or each station changed formats.

*The difference between rating and share is that a rating reflects the percentage of the total population of radios tuned to a particular program while share reflects the percentage of radios actually in use

Houston is the constant and the stations are the variables.  The above sentence tells me

At any given time on AVERAGE:

610 will have ~ 22,500
790 will have ~ 19,500
1560 will have ~ 20,500
97.5 will have ~ 21,000

The swigly lines represents Approximations.

However, those numbers are completely fictitious, HMW will have a comprehensive 4-month run of the Top Ten Markets and we will show you how our great city matches up (various genres).  All of the numbers are cool and all but numbers are useless if you can't tell a story from them.  One should be able to data as if you were reading a novel on Walden Pond.  A series of stories will be dropped in the future.

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Earlis said...

Wow this is great info I do know that hands down
Dallas is a much more viable
sportstalkradio market...I keep waiting for a
Houston station to break the mold and do things different..
Speaking of high school sports the Univ of Texas Sports Network will
carry high school sports content hmmm while the Houston sports talk guru's would have you believe that there no commercial on air value to presenting high school sports information and content hmmm I wonder why ESPN presents high sports??

Anonymous said...

Boring! Who cares about all this ratings bullcrap? I listen to the shows I like so why do I care what the "ratings" are?