Understanding Neilsen Ratings in the World of Audio and Radio

Written by on October 11, 2017

Whether it’s the medium of television or radio, when people hear “ratings,” usually their next thought is “Neilsen.” Not everyone knows who Neilsen is, so allow us to elaborate. Neilsen Holdings PLC, better known as simply “Neilsen,” is a publicly-traded trend-tracking company. Their primary purpose is to collect, organize and analyze consumer goods and behavior through products and media across the globe. In short, they know what consumers buy, watch and use and understand trends behind the fluctuations. They are much larger than you think–they were larger to us when we did the research. We thought they were confined to just the U.S. based on the Family Guy episode about Neilsen ratings where Peter destroyed television for all of Quahog. Neilsen actually operates in over 100 countries around the world. Believe it or not, they have north of 44,000 employees…they’re huge! When it comes to ratings, we want to explain how Neilsen ratings play a role in the world of audio and radio.

Neilsen Ratings: The Solutions and The Insights

"podcast metrics"Be aware that some of the information in this blog could cause alarm as the battle for privacy never ends. Neilsen’s control over what they can see is surprising–even to us as we did the research. Here’s what we mean…

Going off their ways of measuring, it appears as they have one basis to measure and another to gauge against the original basis. Right off their website: “Nielsen measures 80% of all U.S. credit card purchases. By combining this data with audio listener data, we can determine each campaign’s specific return on radio ad spend.” Be aware of when you use your credit card, it could end up in a Neilsen study. We joke, but more seriously, the ways in which they gather information is interesting.

The ways in which Neilsen gathers information about audio and radio content is diverse. Neilsen panelists, as they’re known, carry recording devices with them throughout their day. The device records the audible data, which the company analysts then use to produce local ratings reports for that desired market. It seems to us that portable people meters such as these are listening ears for what audio content is heard and where. The duration covers the course of a month, as reports are delivered on a monthly basis.

With advancing technology, Neilsen’s infiltration of digital audio is impressive, to say the least. Within our world of podcasting, there are many types of audio: on-demand audio, live audio, recorded, syndicated and linear audio. Neilsen has the ability to measure streaming audio within a user’s app or radio player as its consumed. Additionally, their technology can distinguish between consumption and actual downloads.

How Neilsen Ratings Relate to Podcasters

Podcasting is becoming more and more of a lucrative platform for revenue. According to a recent statistic released by Neilsen and posted on Billboard, half the United States’ households listen to podcasts. As a result of the growing demand, Neilsen is making waves in the podcasting realm. If you’re a podcaster, you’ll soon be able to receive incredible metrics from the masters of ratings.

Senior Vice President of Product Leadership at Neilsen Kelly Abcarian said, “Nielsen is working with our clients so we can actually understand the time spent listening and engagement aspect, as well as who is listening […] We are very optimistic that we will have a service that we will launch toward the end of this year, or maybe early next year.” Now, that’s something to look forward to in addition to the analytics already available (Google Analytics, Podtrac Having another spin on metrics gives you deeper insights on podcasting.

How Neilsen Ratings Relate to Advertisers

In advertising, the world of mobile advertising on podcasting is on the rise. Abcarian commented, “Podcasting is getting advertisers’ attention and as better measurement comes into play, the viability of using that as a channel to reach consumers–I think you will see growth of advertising dollars going to that.” Advertising dollars are increasing as a result of improved mobile metrics. Neilsen has their finger in that niche as well, which appears to benefit both sides of the conversation. ROI (return on investment) is something becoming more attainable.

In advertising, where it’s not so concrete, metrics bring more information to the surface allowing a particular company to track the source of a sale all the way back to the origin. What if a chunk of your sales could be contributed directly to a podcast commercial or brief voiceover played at the prime time on a weekday for a specific zip code or county.

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