That should have been how a recent Nielsen press-release started, but instead the company crowed about a 13% year over year increase in radio AQH (average quarter-hours).
We have to take our hat off to Nielsen. It takes a lot of balls chutzpah to spend years dismissing concerns that PPM wasn’t capturing all radio listening, announcing the 13% increase, and declaring, "There is a reason Nielsen is so optimistic about audio."
Yes, it’s great news that radio ratings are up, but radio has lived for nearly a decade chained to a flawed ratings methodology that has hurt radio by undercounting its listeners.
Nielsen’s press-release was pure Orwellian doublespeak essentially bragging about improvements to a technology that Nielsen and before that Arbitron claimed was virtually perfect.
It wasn’t that many months ago that Nielsen claimed that PPM credited all the listening that radio stations deserved. Any rating gains that Voltair produced were spurious artifacts and double counting.
Arun Ramaswamy, a co-author of this gushing self-congratulatory announcement, acknowledged a few months ago that Voltair increased ratings but questioned whether is was “true listening.”
He claimed that Voltair altered the codes allowing stations to receive credit for unintelligible listening.
It seems rather ironic that he should now declare eCBET, the enhanced code, a huge success explaining that:
We found that enhanced CBET makes the PPM codes stronger and more robust, which improves code detection in challenging acoustic environments such as low volume and/or high background noise conditions.
So Nielsen is now claiming credit for the gains after making the same changes to encoding that the company criticized Voltair for doing.
The announcement came with nary a mention of Voltair or the admission that many if not most of the gains have nothing to do with eCBET.
As we noted last August, national AQH ratings started trending up in late 2014 and really started accelerating in early 2015. After more than a decade of declining ratings, the trend reversed about the time that Voltair appeared.
In announcing the roll-out of eCBET Matt O’Grady promised an open and honest process. In that spirit we challenge Nielsen to release the same AQH rating comparison found in the press-release over the period before implementation of eCBET.
Show us comparable numbers for September 2014 to September 2015 so the entire industry can see what impact Voltair had on AQH.
Once the company does that all of us will be able to see how much credit Nielsen can take for radio’s miraculous turn-around.
It would be the honest and open thing to do.