Audience Dialogue

Radio audience measurement

Designing a radio audience research system

A few months ago we were contacted by a market research company in India, which is getting commercial radio stations for the first time. The company was asking our advice about how they could go about setting up a system of audience measurement. As this was the Indian branch of one of the world's largest research companies, we were rather flattered, but as nothing came of this approach, we changed our opinions, and suspected they just wanted to pick our brands and use our experience for free. So in the interests of fairness to all potential bidders, the advice we provided to that company is now being made available to all.

The central question was "What are the major considerations in designing an audience measurement system for commercial radio?"

Our answer was that three areas needed to be addressed: the characteristics of the market for that research system, of the survey procedure, and of the service to be provided. From our experience (mainly in the Pacific, South East Asia, and East Africa) the main points to be addressed are these:

1. Market characteristics
- Financial viability (income flow must exceed expenses)
- Amortization of system development cost
- Support from commercial radio stations
- Support from noncommercial stations
- Support from key government agencies (licensing, regulatory, providers of statistical data, etc)
- Usefulness of data to advertisers and their agencies
- Publicity system for gaining and maintaining support from potential clients
- Developing and protecting credibility of findings
- Balancing survey quality against funding available

2. Survey characteristics
- Questionnaire design for maximum accuracy
- Design of ancillary forms, e.g. call logs, interviewer pay claims, auditing
- Determining interviewer payment system
- Determination of any need to provide incentives to respondents
- Sample design to maximize accuracy, credibility, and economy
- Fieldwork systems for robustness, quality and economy
- Audience measurement parameters, e.g. definition of listening, base period (quarter-hour?), duration of diary, test days, whether to include other media, location of listening, etc.
- Survey parameters: sample size, duration, frequency
- Quality control - eg. auditing, backchecking, verification of a subsample
- Definition of population included, e.g. minimum age, geographical extent
- Clerical systems design - data entry, verification, staff training
- Distribution systems for sending out and receiving questionnaires

3. Service characteristics
- Output design: print and online
- Software for converting raw diary data into tables
- Training customers in use of data
- Discovering and ensuring fair play by radio stations
- Publication systems design - producing and distributing a report for each survey
- Software packages for use by clients doing special analyses
- Customized additional services

These are the major areas that need to be taken into account in designing a system for regular audience research for commercial radio in any country.