Shifting surveys: OMG’s Scott Keddie on what the new radio survey might look like

“Listen in at 10 past nine tomorrow morning for your chance to win $100,000 in cash.”

Yep, it’s radio survey period and the madness has begun.  For many years now, the radio survey has been conducted twice a year, released in April (T1) and October (T2), which has resulted in heightened promotional activity from the radio stations with anything and everything thrown at attracting listeners.

But that is all about to change, hopefully for the good and the future of the industry. There will be no official T1 survey conducted in Q1 this year as agreed by the two large radio networks and independent stations. The T2 survey that runs August to September is planned to go ahead and will most likely act as a control measure for a potentially new radio audience measurement system.

MediaWorks announced pre-Christmas that they would be under-taking an independent review of the measurement system, citing the current technology as old and a need to remain relevant in an increasingly data driven media landscape. Alternatively, NZME has embarked on their own review of the current measurement system and has also financed a T1 survey independently. It’s expected that the consultants employed by both radio networks will present their findings together. 

While OMG agencies applaud this well overdue review, it is a shame that the radio industry hasn’t worked more closely together to review and source new and improved methods of measurement from other markets.  What is encouraging though is the speed at which the radio industry wants to move, with review findings presented back to the radio industry in Q1, hopefully resulting in consensus and swift action.    

So, what could we potentially end up with?

The current diary system is dated and now carries little value for agencies.  Radio programmers also crave a measurement system that is more accurate in order to gauge their performance in the market.  Although we, as an industry, have grand ambitions to create robust measurement systems, we can’t lose sight of the size of our market and the limitations that come with a small market, namely capital investment.  We don’t expect the radio industry to implement a bulletproof measurement system, as I don’t believe one exists.  

However, a hybrid approach similar to other markets (UK and Australia) whereby a diary and online survey co-exist would be a good place to start.  The survey needs to move away from a confined period and move towards a system similar to that employed by Radio NZ, which surveys across 40 weeks of the year (February-November).  Recall would improve, which would result in data that is more accurate and reflective of radio consumption across the country.

Electronic measurement has been suggested as an alternative, however, this may be a leap too far for our market in the short-term, which could result in lower reported audiences during the transition period and a higher cost to implement – this would set the radio industry back after a buoyant few years in terms of ad revenue.  Should the radio industry explore electronic measurement, there could be some upsides that are worthy of exploration, such as an audience currency similar to TV, accurate listening measurement via minute-by-minute audience data and more continuous data.  

What do we want from the new measurement system?

Electronic measurement would be interesting and a step closer to programmatic radio trading, however, I believe a transition towards a weighted diary and online measurement system would best fit this market in the short-term.  We would need to see the construct of the survey panel that is more representative across online and diary to capture better insights from which to plan and trade against.  

The frequency of survey data releases would need to increase.  In-depth quarterly presentations to the market at a minimum, but access to continuous data from an agency point of view would be ideal, especially now given the greater amount of data available to agencies.

How we measure audience engagement across platforms would present an opportunity for the likes of Pandora and Spotify to be considered within the survey and have a say in the future of radio measurement – from my point of view, they should be in partnership with the radio networks as part of this review.  Digital radio is growing and the blurring of what radio actually represents will continue to be challenged.  The ability to understand how consumers are engaging with radio brands and shows in social feeds would be an interesting addition to the new measurement system – perhaps not a short-term solution, but certainly a consideration for the future of radio measurement.

We now operate in a data-rich environment and media vendors must keep pace with the demands of our market and global market trends.  We are excited by the review, which will hopefully lead to a more robust measurement system from which agencies can better understand and plan against radio audiences, providing more accuracy across the year.  Let’s hope we see communication from the radio industry soon, outlining the future of radio audience measurement.  
No doubt there’ll still be room for radio promotions.  

  • Scott Keddie is the chief investment officer at OMG NZ. [email protected]
  • This story was originally published in the March/April edition of NZ Marketing. 

About Author

Comments are closed.