The final point I’ll make is that the Voltair was more pronounced at the minute level than just the quarter-hour level....(Because of complimentary crediting and the smoothing system) we found that even though the Voltair product was more visible at the minute level, it wasn’t always translated at the quarter-hour level.
So even with Voltair, radio stations fail to get credit for fragmentary listening because of a quarter-hour tradition dating back to the 1940s.
In the 1940s and 1950s, radio programs were 15 minutes or longer in length. It made sense for radio ratings to be measured in 15 minute units, so the quarter-hour metric was created.
Most everything in radio has since changed, but not the quarter-hour.
The quarter-hour metric is an anachronistic throw-back to a era that radio has long passed.
We need to kill the quarter-hour. Here’s why.
Voltair enhances PPM codes so that decoders are more successful at identifying the station a panelist is listening to.
It takes at least five successfully identified minutes of listening for a station to get credit for a quarter-hour. If Voltair helps you get only four minutes credit in a quarter-hour, you don’t get a quarter-hour.
You get zero credit, despite the fact that the panelist was listening to you.
Nielsen argues that the editing rules help radio because you can get 15 minutes of credit even if the meter only successfully identifies five.
But they ignore the flip side.
A station gets no credit if the meter identifies even longer listening spans when it bridges two quarter-hours.
Say a panelist listens for five minutes from 5:00 to 5:05 and the meter successfully credits the station for all five minutes.
The station gets credit for one quarter-hour.
What if the panelist listens for eight minutes from 4:56 to 5:03?
The station gets no credit for any listening–-even if the meter credits the station for all eight minutes.
In diary markets this is hardly an issue. People are not that precise when they write down their listening, generally rounding to the quarter-hour.
PPM is different.
Because PPM measures exposure and the meters take time to identify a radio station (if at all), exposure spans are brief with gaps as the meter struggles to identify the station.
While a diary keeper is unlikely to write down 4:56-5:03, it is quite likely that meters will detect listening over odd periods of time like this.
That’s why Voltair has a bigger impact for Canadian stations than US stations. Canadian radio is measured in minutes rather than quarter-hours.
So Canadian stations get credited with listening that US stations do not.
Nielsen claims that PPM propelled radio audience measurement into the 21st century. Isn’t time to abandon the quarter-hour, an anachronistic vestige of the first half of the 20th?