Arbitron’s change of wording

Inside Radio reports that Arbitron…

[has added] a line [to the diary instructions] to specifically say that listening may be to a radio or “you may be listening over the Internet or to a satellite radio service.”

Plenty of radio folks object to this with good reason (including two mentioned in the Inside Radio piece whom I respect quite a lot).

It would be easy to take swipes at the exact wording here, but if you really cut to the heart of the issue, it’s something I have talked about for a long time and Arbitron is primarily responsible for coming to grips with:

What business are we in?

If we’re in the over-the-air free radio business, then Arbitron’s wording is fine as it was. If, however, we’re in the business of wireless audio entertainment, regardless of the channel, then Arbitron’s change is only a baby step in the right direction.

How can Arbitron assess measurement of listening to streaming on PC’s, on cell phones, via Satellite, etc., unless the listener understands that this is the kind of listening that Arbitron is seeking to measure?

While the critics are right that the language, as stated, could bias potential respondents to over-report listening to new media, the truth is that NOT having this (or similar) language probably results in them UNDER-reporting such listening.

Fundamentally, we must appreciate what business we’re really in. Then the language fluctuations won’t matter (nor will they presumably matter when – or if – radio ratings become metered).

Then, of course, there are implications for how we compete as an industry, but those are observations I’ll save for my clients.

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