The Nightmare of Measuring Listening in an HD Radio world

Boy oh boy, folks, if you think you can’t count on the ratings for accuracy now, just wait.

Wait until 30 stations in every market become 100 in an HD world.

If a typical market has, say, 3,000 diaries per quarter – 250 per week – that means that every week 250 diaries are spread across a menu of 100 stations – 2.5 diaries per station per week. In that scenario, one or two diaries will not make the big difference (as they do now) – instead, just one or two quarter-hours will make the big difference!

Under this scenario, ratings measurements for the vast majority of HD-only (as opposed to HD/Analog) stations will be hopelessly unreliable, innacurate, and quite possibly zero.

Under the meter scenario things aren’t nearly as bleak, but bleak they remain. There, for example, you’d have perhaps 1,000 or 1,500 meters per week – 10 to 15 meters per station. Still pretty small.

But wait.

If we now have 250 diaries per week for 30 stations, that amounts to only 8 diaries per station. That suggests we’re better off with meters in an HD world than we are with diaries in TODAY’S world. Unfortunately, as you know, Arbitron doesn’t give us weekly data because they know we can’t trust it. They don’t even encourage us to interpret monthly data. And in a month – which hops and bops like crazy – there are roughly 1,000 diaries in a market, exactly the same number as the lower-estimate meter count.

Theoretically, then, a weekly meter-measured HD world will look like today’s Arbitron discrete monthlies.

Welcome to your nightmare!

Of course, if nobody buys HD Radios (as I expect they won’t), then we’re theoretically better off, measurement-wise, in a metered world. 1,000 measuring devices per week vs. 250 diaries. 1,000 per month vs. 1,000 diaries.

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