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More on Radio’s coming Internet crisis

Recently, I highlighted a huge, brewing problem for the radio industry that would esentially have any station’s Internet listening count against its over-the-air listening if the online audience at all cannibalized the over-the-air one.

The new rules will essentially encourage accurate reporting of online listenership but, because the spots over the air and on the web will not be the same, the online listenership will be a separate item in the ratings, not part of your radio station per se. That means as a listener if I choose Internet over the broadcast version of your station your over-the-air ratings will go DOWN.

Here’s station owner Russ Oasis with another facet to this issue. This is from a letter by Russ to the Arbitron Advisory Committee:

Here’s the most outrageous aspect of Arbitron’s practice, they disallow the listening for the station, but ADD it to the market total. The effect of this is to REDUCE the quarter hour share for THAT STATION AND ALL OTHER STATIONS IN THAT MARKET. The Arbitron practice reports to advertising agencies LESS LISTENING TO INDIVIDUAL STATIONS THAN REALLY EXISTS!!! How can one add quarter hours to the market total and not ascribe them to any station? If listening took place in the market, it had to come from somewhere!

Technically, of course, this “extra” listening would be ascribed to an ONLINE version of the station, but since those online ratings would to a large degree come from the OVER-THE-AIR station, the net result will be lower ratings for the radio station based, as Russ indicates, on a higher listening base.

To sum it up: Radio had better take this issue very seriously or there will be lean days ahead.

As a postscript, I would point out that there have been only 250 listens to my Q&A with Saga’s Steve Goldstein on this issue. For an issue of such great importance (and compared to the listens my Q&A’s usually get on far lighter topics) this is pathetic and a frightening illustration of head-in-the-sand thinking. We will get what we ask for, folks.

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