Audience Dialogue

Glossary of media research terms

This glossary covers terms used in measuring audiences and assessing the impacts of media.

Audience share
A radio or TV station's share is the percent of time people in that market spend with that station - it is not a percentage of people. See also market share and share.

Brand equity
The value of a brand name. Similar to the accountant's concept of goodwill.

Circulation
For a newspaper or magazine, the number of copies sold or distributed. Cf. readership. Our page on measuring print audiences has more detail.

Communications audit
A systematic appraisal of all the communications between an organization and those who deal with it or who could affect it in some way. Usually done by looking at all the messages that are sent out by the organization, but our approach also studies messages received by audiences about the organization.

Cost Per Thousand
Abbreviated to CPM. The cost of an advertisement divided by how many thousands of people saw or heard it. This is used to compare the cost of advertising in different media or different situations.

Cumulative audience
The number of different people who tune into a radio or TV channel in a given time period - often over a week. Same as reach. Sometimes abbreviated to cume.

Demographic
A type of survey question which asks for background data, such as age group, sex, occupation, religion, education level, and the like. The resulting measures are called demographics.

Dialogue techniques
Similar to response cultivation: a systematized way of improving and making use of customer feedback.

Geodemographics
Studying the characteristics of people in terms of where they live.

Gross Rating Points (GRP)
A term used in buying time for TV ads. If an ad is shown twice, and seen by 10% of people the first time and 8% the second time, it achieves 18 GRPs. A more specific version of GRPs is TARPS.

Hits
In Internet research, this is a measure of the number of files downloaded. If a web page has 20 image files attached, that is 21 hits - even though only the user has accessed only one page. Page view is a more useful measure from an audience point of view.

Market
An area of interest for a commercial organization, usually corresponding with the area where a survey is done. See population. A market can also be restricted to a type of product or service, e.g. the musical-instrument market in Australia.

Market share
Also called share. A firm's market share is the proportion of the market which it serves, expressed in financial terms. For example, "Toyota had a 25% share of the passenger vehicle market in Japan in 2001." Audience share is different, because it's based on time spent listening, not on money. For print media share usually means share of readership.

Page views
A more useful measure of website popularity than hits. A page view is just what is sounds like: one person viewing one web page, regardless of the number of files on that page.

Penetration
Equivalent to reach or cumulative audience: that is, the number of different people who use a service or see a program. Saturation and incidence also have much the same meaning.

Peoplemeter
A meter attached to a TV set which records the viewing of individual people (usually when they press a button). Not to be confused with a setmeter.

Perceptual research
Research on radio can be divided into three: audience measurement (ratings research), music research, and perceptual research - which is just about everything else, particularly relating to audience perceptions and images of radio stations. This term is used mainly in the USA.

Response cultivation
A group of methods for use mainly by broadcasters and print media: not quite formal market research, not quite marketing, but something between the two. See also dialogue techniques.

Segmentation
A marketing technique which involves grouping audiences into segments, and treating each segment separately for promotional purposes. The segments are usually found from survey data, using a technique such as cluster analysis.

Rating
When a TV program has a rating of, say, 10, that means 10% of households watched that program. That means at least one person in those households, but typically (in Australia) a rating of 10 means that only about 6-7% of people watched the program. In radio research, ratings research measures audience size, but not a specific measure.

Reach
An audience research term. The number (or percentage) of different people (or households) who see a TV commercial, hear a radio program (etc.) in a defined time period. For example, if a radio station has a weekly reach of 15% of people, that means 15 people in every 100 in the population of the area heard that station at least once in a week. Reach is the same as cumulative audience, but less of a mouthful. 3-plus reach means the number of people who have seen/heard a message 3 or more times. See also incidence.

Readership
The number of readers of a newspaper, magazine, etc. Circulation is calculated by the number of copies sold, but readership can only be assessed by a survey.

Reception analysis
Also known as Reception theory. A type of audience research that focuses on what audiences perceive in the media - as opposed to what broadcasters think they produce. Similar to Uses and gratifications.

Setmeter
A meter attached to a radio or TV set which records which channels the set was tuned to, at which times. See peoplemeter.

Share
Used in two slightly different ways. See audience share and market share.

Single-source
Combining different kinds of question in one survey, e.g. TV audience and product use. The opposite of fusion.

Syndicated research
Research originated by a research company, with data sold to anybody who is interested - unlike an ad hoc survey, which is a one-off survey for an individual client. Audience measurement surveys are often syndicated.

Target audience
The type of people aimed at by a broadcaster, publisher, or advertiser. E.g. an ad for retirement villages might have a target audience of people aged 65 and over who live in their own homes.

TARPs
Target Audience Rating Points. A term used in audience research for assessing the audience to a commercial. If a TV commercial is watched by 10% of the target audience it achieves 10 TARPs. When all the TARPs for individual commercials are added up, they become Gross Rating Points (GRPs).

Tracking
A series of repeated surveys in which the same questions are asked, so that a measure can be tracked over time. Often used in measuring the reach of advertising. See monitoring.

Triage
A medical concept, that can be applied to media marketing. Divide the population into three groups: those who have never used your service in question, those who have used it for years, and the rest. Focus on the rest, because the behaviour of the other two groups can't easily be changed.

Uses and Gratifications
An offshoot of audience research that developed in the 1980s. Instead of studying the content, or what media to do audiences, the Uses and Gratifications people study how people use programs. For example, when children watch sitcoms without laughing, maybe they're learning how (they think) adults behave. Five main types of uses and gratifications have been defined: for information, aesthetic feelings, personal needs, social needs, and escapism. See also Reception theory.