In a significant U-turn that could help lead to a more commonly accepted radio listenership measurement system in India, Radio Mirchi’s owner, Entertainment Network (India) Ltd, is looking to subscribe to the Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) service launched in October.

Radio Mirchi CEO Prashant Panday

Indeed, a Radio Mirchi executive had earlier told Mint that RAM data was 83% inaccurate as it was based on the diary method. In this and other media interviews, Radio Mirchi officials cited a pilot done by Media Research Users Council (Mruc) that compared the two radio audience measurement methodologies of day after recall (DAR) with the diary method, and said they found that the former was more accurate. The Mruc offers Indian Listenership Track (ILT), which was launched in 2004 and uses the recall methodology to measure radio audiences.

In RAM’s diary method, 480 respondents in each city of Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore, currently log the details of the radio programmes they listen to each day in a diary, which forms the basis for tabulating weekly radio listenership ratings for these markets.

The ILT gives radio listenership data each quarter, or in four waves. It’s based on the recall method where respondents are queried about their listenership habits one day after listening to the medium. The sample size is 4,500 people each in Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata.

People in the media buying world say that the ILT could be looking at a revamp as well as increased frequency of surveying listeners. Mint’s emails and telephone calls to Mruc on Radio Mirchi’s plans or possible revamping of the ILT were not answered.

Says Nandan Srinath, chief operating officer of Radio Mirchi: “We continue to have a difference of opinion on the methodology of RAM; but are considering subscribing to the RAM data to keep us abreast of developments on that front. We are engaging with TAM Media on this front. As far as (Mruc’s) Indian Listenership Track is concerned, we continue to have more faith in the day after recall methodology that ILT follows and will certainly subscribe to that study as Mruc moves it forward. In effect, none of this signals a change in (our) stance on the DAR and diary."

Media observers however say that it makes business sense for Radio Mirchi to join RAM, since advertisers will buy radio ad time based on those findings too. All Radio Mirchi rivals have already subscribed to RAM.

One of India’s largest advertisers, Hindustan Unilever Ltd, is looking closely at RAM to plan its radio ad spends. Says Rahul Welde, a vice-president in charge of media services for large areas of HUL: “We certainly are looking at adopting it (RAM). Media agencies are still getting used to using RAM and these are early days. But I have no doubt RAM would have an important role in planning for radio."

Other advertisers, such as HDFC Standard Life Insurance Co. Ltd, are also evaluating both measurement systems. Says Sanjay Tripathy, the company’s head of marketing: “We’re evaluating both ILT and RAM and trying to see which of the two works best for us and is more representative of our target audience." Radio rivals welcomed Mirchi’s decision.

Anuj Singh, station & marketing head, Red FM Digital Radio (Mumbai) Broadcasting Ltd, says “we actively used the ILT data and are now actively using RAM as well," he says. “In sheer richness of data, the diary-based RAM is far more useful, especially in fine-tuning specific aspects of programming, than the DAR-based ILT. Credibility for RAM will be built over time. However, the process may be accelerated as there is no sign of the next round of ILT."

Indeed, some media buyers also say that the next wave of ILT has not yet been announced and, as a result, there is no recent ILT data available for advertisers, making RAM the default choice.

Those who have opted for RAM appear to swear by it. “We are firm subscribers to RAM and we are confident that this gold standard of measurement is working for the Indian market," says Anand Chakravarthy, vice-president, marketing, BIG92.7 FM, part of the Anil Ambani’s Reliance group.

RAM’s methodology “is widely practiced in mature radio markets, such as the US, the UK and Australia," notes Gowri Satyamoorthy Kapre, national head of marketing and promotions at Fever104 FM. “There is higher degree of authenticity to this method as listenership is being recorded at the time of consumption, as opposed to day after recall (ILT) which may be colored by overall salience of the brand. After all, the attempt is to capture actual consumption - listenership, as opposed to brand awareness." Mint’s publisher, HT Media Ltd, owns Fever104FM.