If Nielsen seemed overly anxious to quickly put the Voltair matter behind them, it is perhaps because they have bigger fires to put out.
While those bigger fires are about the way Nielsen measures video consumption, Nielsen's actions have major implications for radio.
Radio’s dispassionate passivity regarding Nielsen’s poor performance, however, stands in stark contrast to television’s very vocal public reaction to Nielsen’s poor performance on the TV side.
Alan Wurtzel NBC’s research president has been particularly blunt in his assessment of Nielsen:
Nielsen will become increasingly marginalized. They are incapable of doing certain things and it's only getting worse.
At CES Linda Yaccarino, NBC’s chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, described Nielsen’s current rating system as antiquated:
It's unfair to marketers, it's unfair to content creators, and it's up to all of us in this industry to take a stand. We need to reach beyond Nielsen’s C3 (the current) rating.
To Wurtzel the problem is that Nielsen isn’t measuring media the way it’s consumed today and the company's failure is hurting television:
Whether we like it or not, Nielsen winds up being a reflection of what the industry is, and what troubles me is that people, because they're looking at these flawed numbers, are getting the idea that the pie, the use of the video medium, is shrinking. Well, it's not. If anything, it's expanding. It's just not being measured.
While Mr. Wurtzel is talking about television, there’s no evidence that Nielsen is any more accurate in their measurement of radio.
Radio buyers are looking at flawed numbers and getting the idea that radio is also shrinking. Radio like television is being consumed in many new ways, and radio too is being hurt by Nielsen’s inability to measure all consumption.
In some respects radio is probably being hurt proportionately more than television because of the flaws in PPM measurement. We know that PPM is missing most streamed listening. Now we’ve discovered that PPM is missing plenty of broadcast listening too.
And if the next step Nielsen is taking in television is any indication of what Nielsen intends for radio, radio measurement accuracy could actually get worse.
You see, it is getting so expensive to measure people’s media habits by way of a survey that Nielsen is going to stop asking people.
Henceforth the company is just going to “model” television rating demographics in smaller markets using increasingly inaccurate estimates of larger markets.
As reported by MediaPost:
Nielsen is poised to make the most fundamental shift in its core currency -- national TV ratings -- since it introduced people meters in 1987. That methodological shift, which will effectively begin modeling a large portion of TV ratings instead of actually measuring them, is set to change on Dec. 28th (2015) and will be the new currency for the national TV advertising marketplace for the foreseeable future.
Local television stations in smaller markets are upset, but what choice do they have?
If Nielsen can make this move stick, why not do the same for radio? Smaller markets may have their ratings “modeled” based on what’s happening in nearby larger markets, essentially estimates based on other estimates.
In a surprising show of backbone, the Media Rating Council is not just rolling over. The MRC has expressed concerns about the accuracy of a ratings service that doesn’t even make a token effort to actually talk to media users.
It will be the first time its national TV ratings are un-accredited since the MRC began auditing them in the 1960s, stemming from Congressional hearings on the TV ratings business and a consent decree with the Justice Department.
It's a point that Nielsen disputes. However, according to Nielsen's own press release:
The MRC has yet to make an accreditation determination related to the Viewer Assignment process for persons-level viewing estimates in these markets only and therefore they will not be accredited effective Dec. 31st.
Nielsen still doesn’t have MRC accreditation in all PPM markets. If anything, the process is virtually stopped with no new markets added to the accredited list since August 2013.
And now Nielsen’s radio diary methodology is under MRC review.
Yet unlike television’s vocal critics, radio’s leaders remain silent and on the sidelines.
NOTE: The original post stated that there were fewer markets accredited today than in the past. Nielsen has yet to gain accreditation in twenty-two markets, a number that has not changed since 2013. In January 2012 the MRC revoked Salt Lake City's accreditation and the market remains unaccredited. New markets, however, have since been added keeping the total accredited markets at twenty-six.
We have also added a link to Nielsen's press release regarding the status of the company's Viewer Assignment accreditation.