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How many listeners are you losing to the Internet?

Last week Arbitron sent out a note indicating that “1% of in-tab diaries…contain listening to internet radio.”

It’s important that you understand what this does and doesn’t mean.

First, the diary instruction is radio-centric (i.e., “you may be listening to radio on AM, FM, Internet, or Satellite,” so if respondents don’t consider Internet streaming audio to be “radio” per se that will prevent them from responding accordingly and skew the numbers down.

Second, if a respondent notes that they listen to Live365 or Shoutcast or any other streaming service that does not have a stick in your market, that listening data is thrown out (since, technically, they are not “Persons Using Radio”).

Third, listening that is 100% simulcast (spots and all) is added back to the station and doesn’t appear as Internet listening at all (this includes about 20% of stations, overall).

Fourth, listening to out-of-market stations online IS included in YOUR market’s Persons Using Radio. That, my friends, means that the more time your audience spends listening to streaming radio from other markets, the lower your shares are likely to be, and the larger “other” becomes.

So what this statistic really measures is listening online to streaming radio stations (and only stations) from near and far which are not 100% simulcast. This is a fairly irrelevant figure, if you ask me, signifying almost nothing. And it certainly doesn’t indicate the degree to which your audience is tuning out your station and tuning in something online.

Now, to be fair, it’s not Arbitron’s job to measure everything folks listen to. It’s their job to measure radio. As the definition of “radio” changes, perhaps what Arbitron measures should change, too – but as long as it’s in radio’s interest to bulk up our numbers, I find it hard to imagine that this baseline will yield to a broader definition.

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