The first days of radio rating

By , agencyfaqs! | In | July 16, 2002
Glitches remain, but overall everyone is relieved that there is third party monitoring

First, ORG-Marg began taking tentative steps towards a radio monitoring system. The ORG-Marg service will do its research in 'waves' of three months. Now, a Mumbai-based portal is looking seriously at radio monitoring and analysis. The portal is planning to provide in-depth reports on how particular radio programmes are doing. "The reports are not static and they are not a mere list of what was telecast. We arrange disparate data in a reusable format, and this can provide valuable information. Ad agencies want instant analysis for rapid decision making and programming divisions need comparative analysis for designing content," says Rajendra J Prasad, manager, communications, The question is, will such systems really impact the radio scene in the city?

At a basic level, while the ORG-Marg service provides ratings for the various programmes based on feedback from direct interviews, the service offered by the portal will look at them in more detail. Right now, nobody is expecting a perfect system, but the industry - both stations and agencies - are relieved that somebody has finally taken a step forward. Says Rajesh Tahil, Go 92.5 FM's Mumbai station director and head of content, "In the current scenario, advertisers hear only one side of the story. With third party research, one may not get an absolutely clear picture, but something is better than nothing." Agrees Asha Sharma, associate media director, Zenith Media, "Right now, as things are not clear, everyone is on all the four channels. But once such a system is in place, the smaller clients especially, will advertise on the top channel alone, as that would be more cost effective."

Currently, the only research that exists is that sponsored by the station itself - like the study commissioned by Radio Mirchi, done by IMRB, to measure its audiences in the cities of Nagpur and Mumbai. However, industry sources feel, even if the findings of such sponsored studies are accepted by agencies, they are not willing to shell out more for Radio Mirchi slots. This defeats the primary purpose of ranking from a station's viewpoint.

Such station-sponsored studies also fail to get the respect of competing stations. For example, Radio City feels that the IMRB study, that found Radio Mirchi at the top among FM channels, had an unfair advantage as it was carried out when Mirchi had completed more than a month, and Radio City had just completed 10 days. "There are a lot of ways in which you get corrupt data. The time, the programmes, the slot etc are not compared on an equal footing. Right now, you do not have an "apple to apple" scenario," contends Sumantra Dutta, chief operating officer, Radio City. Radio Mirchi, based on the two studies, has claimed that it "leads the rankings" in the city. "The research was conducted at traffic signals, and not by asking the driver what station he was listening to. The researchers actually looked at the radio dials to confirm that it was Radio Mirchi that was playing. There is no way that the data can be wrong. Another study by Euro RSCG also put us at the top," defends Prashant Pandey, chief operating officer, Radio Mirchi.

With third party monitoring, say analysts, there will be a uniform standard, though right now, certain glitches need to be ironed out. For example, one major question is the best revenue model that can be adopted. Elsewhere, there are three models - radio stations footing the whole bill, radio stations sharing it with agencies, or radio stations paying the bulk, and the information being made available at attractive rates to agencies. The last is what is most likely to work in India.

This would be uniquely suited to Indian conditions, say analysts, where many radio advertisers are small retail shops, or city-specific businesses, which have to be convinced to buy radio time. And with the selling of radio time moving from the big agencies to the small, and with more agencies willing to pay for the research, the costs are likely to come down. As one station head put it, "The subscription fee for advertising agencies should be incentivised and not penalised." The lower the cost of the service, the more the expectation that agencies will flock to buy it.

Another problem is the fondness of agencies for data from SEC A and B segments. However, with radio, this might have to change as a large chunk of radio listeners are outside these categories. Though these sections do not have the heavy buying power that the other classes have, given that many of the services broadcast on radio are also cheap, and given the sheer mass of such SEC C and D users, rating agencies may decide to go in for the "recall" method, rather than the cumbersome diary method that calls for some literacy.

As radio gains ground all these issues would hopefully be ironed out. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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