Steve Morris, chief executive officer of Arbitron Inc., and newly appointed India managing director Shilen Sagunan met officials of the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) in talks that could lead to a joint radio audience measurement initiative.
Arbitron is a US-based market research firm with a wholly owned Indian subsidiary, Arbitron Technologies Services, while MRUC is a non-profit body that commissions media research.
“We do have an interest in measuring radio in countries around the world,” Morris said in a telephone interview.
“MRUC is looking at radio measurement and examining where they are today and where they will be in five years from now. It made sense to ask MRUC about the degree of satisfaction in terms of what they are doing in measurement in radio and plans for the future. We also wanted to know whether we could do something that will satisfy what they want.” Morris also said there is interest from MRUC’s side in electronic measurement, but anything more requires thought on their part. He said Arbitron, meanwhile, has “decided to work out the idea of electronic measurement for radio and how it might be done in India.”
Arbitron has a panel of respondents who use portable people meters—a device that detects audio codes embedded in broadcasts. At the end of the day, users?dock ?the?device?into a system that downloads the data and send it to Arbitron.
India already has two competing radio audience measurement products: TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd’s radio audience measurement and MRUC’s Indian listenership track (ILT). Both TAM and MRUC are looking to move to electronic audience measurement systems for radio.
TAM Media uses the diary system. Some 480 respondents in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore note details of radio programmes they listen to each day in the diary, which forms the basis for tabulating weekly radio listenership ratings in these markets.
MRUC’s ILT, the oldest radio audience measurement system in India, releases listenership data each quarter, or in four waves. ILT is based on day after recall method, where respondents are queried about their listenership habits a day after listening to the medium.
Electronic measurement systems don’t come cheap and it is unclear who will pay for any new method. A major part of audience measurement expense is borne now by radio broadcasters. “Testing electronic meters is very expensive,” says Morris. “It’s a good idea for both the industry and the vendor to be making the investment here. Both sides ought to be serious about it.”
Morris notes that in the US, audience measurement via electronic devices can cost up to 65% more than the diary method, though, he says, the actual costs would depend on the complexity of the market
Meanwhile, Arbitron is not looking at TV audience measurement in India, just yet. “We wouldn’t start with television because that’s a complicated market in itself,” Morris said. “But, radio is much more new and just getting access to FM. It’s also a much more fragmented medium, with Internet delivery and mobile. Measuring that kind of complexity is more than the diary can handle. Right now TAM’s diary-based service is the new thing here. But, the industry would have to move to electronic measurement at some point.”
TAM is expected to launch its electronic meters in India by year-end. “I am aware that TAM is talking about electronic meters as well. But, they haven’t tested it as yet in India. There’s a lot of work and testing to be done, before you know that the system works. I don’t know whether they can introduce it that early.”
Still, “there’s no such thing as perfection in audience measurement,” says Morris. “In my mind, it’s pretty clear that electronic measurement is a better representation of actual listening than the diary.”