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A glimpse into your future: minute-by-minute ratings

If this doesn’t make your stomach turn, I don’t know what will.

Imagine this article is about radio rather than TV and you’ll see what I mean.

From Media Daily News [entire piece here]:

TOP NETWORK SHOWS LOSE A considerable portion of their audiences during commercial breaks, according to Nielsen data obtained by MediaDailyNews. The data, an analysis of Nielsen’s so-called minute-by-minute ratings, shows the audience for CBS hit “CSI” dropping 15 percent during commercial breaks in February. Among adults ages 25 to 54, “CSI” averaged a 9.5 Nielsen rating for the month during programming, but only an 8.1 rating during commercial breaks. On ABC, “Desperate Housewives” fell 6 percent from a 10.9 in the programming to a 10.2 during commercials, while “ER” on NBC also dropped 6 percent, going from a 7.1 to a 6.7. Ratings could fall even further in the 18-to-49 demo during commercials since younger viewers may be more rabid ad skippers. Advertisers are expected to press networks in the coming upfront to base some guarantees on the so-called “commercial ratings,” while networks are likely to resist. Minute-by-minute data was a hot topic at the recent American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Media Conference. Jean Pool, executive vice president-COO at Universal McCann and chair of the AAAA’s Media Policy Committee, told networks to make the ratings available or risk appearing as if they are “trying to hide some dirty little secret. In the end, we want commercial ratings, not program averages,” she said. But while speaking to reporters at the conference, Mike Shaw, ABC’s president of sales and marketing, said the issue is “a two-way street,” and if advertisers want to employ minute-by-minute ratings, they must bear the burden of creating more compelling ads–including in HD–to prevent viewer exodus during breaks. “They better start coming up with some better creative,” he said.

How much do you cherish the notion of radio being valued by advertisers according to the ratings of your commercial breaks?

Especially in an environment where there are plenty of music-intensive alternatives and – soon – plenty more digital ones that slice the formats even finer.

And this is separate from the obvious point: entertaining ears or eyeballs during a spot may help retention of audience, but it does nothing to assure effectiveness of the spot as a sales tool. If spots are to be evaluated based on how well they hold an audience rather than how well they move products or services, it seems to me that the advertising community is in even a worse fix than anyone imagines.

Mark my words, the minute advertisers have PPM data, they’ll press you for rates based on ratings to their spots, not your programming.

Of course, without your programming, the ratings on their spots will be zero.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for PPM in general because I think it will more accurately measure listening. But don’t let advertisers take you down an ugly road.

Measure effectiveness. Don’t just count ears.

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