Yes, Nielsen bragged that radio Average Quarter Hours increased 13% after the roll-out of enhanced encoding.
However, Nielsen looked at a period when radio stations were rushing to install Voltairs.
As we pointed out at the time, AQH started growing well before the introduction of Nielsen’s enhanced encoding. That means most of the gains could have come from Voltair, not eCBET.
Regardless, radio can take some solace that after a decade of denying that PPM under-counted radio listening, Nielsen essentially admitted that PPM really hadn’t been capturing all listening.
It was also an admission that PPM was not format neutral, as the company claimed. It’s now confirmed that some formats and programming were under-counted more than other formats, and that may still be the case.
But the moral victory and gains in AQH came at a cost.
Nielsen’s tweak to the encoding seems to have been rather heavy-handed with the annoying codes now clearly audible on some stations.
To our ears the increased audibility of encoding has made some stations unlistenable. And station engineers we’ve spoken to agree.
What good is it that the meter picks up more listening if encoding drives listeners away?
Nielsen’s Arun Ramaswamy claimed that Voltair introduced audible artifacts that, “could possibly effect the user experience for our panelists.”
Any misused audio processor including Voltair can create artifacts, but the solution is to properly adjust the processing.
A station using Voltair can lower the processing so that no artifacts are audible.
That’s not true with the enhanced encoder.
Nielsen’s is a “one size fits all” solution. If enhanced encoding creates audible artifacts on your station, there is nothing you can do.
So it turns out that PPM is still not format neutral. PPM still picks winners and losers based on format encodability.
The audibility of the encoding tones, and the possible negative listener response (user experience), is not equal across formats.
The tones are better masked on some programming. Listeners to these stations won’t be driven away, while listeners to programming where the tones are not well masked may be.
A recent Radio Insights post provided a link so you could hear the encoding tones.
Listen to the tones and then tune around your market. Once you know what to listen for, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to hear encoding—maybe on your station.
Do you think listeners want to hear that?