How useful are the 12+ numbers that Nielsen releases?
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Thread: How useful are the 12+ numbers that Nielsen releases?

  1. #1
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    How useful are the 12+ numbers that Nielsen releases?

    Many discussions begin with a comment on a station that has gone up or down in the public-release Nielsen data.

    This information is part of highly detailed reports that allow advertisers to view the ratings data by age group, gender, ethnicity, geography, education and income. That precision data is copyright and not released to the public. Stations pay for it to show to advertisers.

    Because we love lists. Top songs, top teams, top hitters, top passers, the ratings company releases an overview. It is intended to promote radio and the ratings company without giving away anything of value. Advertisers pay to reach people in very specific age groups, and will often specify criteria like "men 25-44" or "Hispanic women 18-49" when they get quotes from stations (or do automated buys). They don't use the 12+ numbers.

    So when looking at ratings, consider whether the station has done better or worse in its target demographic. That is all that matters to the programmers and sales staff of the station.

    Two real world examples are WFAN and WDUV. WFAN has spent the better part of three decades at the top or near there in revenue in the New York market, but it is generally somewhere around 15th (give or take) in 12+. Yet it delivers adult males very efficiently and does very well. WDUV has lead the Tampa market for well over a decade at #1 in 12+. But until it made recent music changes, it was about 15th in revenue; that's because in the sales ages, generally over 19 and below 55, they were about 15th and got very limited revenue.
    Last edited by frankberry; 12-20-2015 at 02:31 PM.
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  2. #2
    General Manager frankberry's Avatar
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    From K.M. Richards:

    David has explained already how it is the demographic breakouts which are used to determine how a station is "doing" and how the 6+ numbers are obviously too broad for business decisions to be made based upon them.

    Nielsen -- and before the merger, Arbitron -- has historically released the 6+ (12+, in non-PPM markets) numbers for a couple of reasons, both admittedly self-serving. The most important is to keep their name in front of the public's consciousness as the "keeper of the numbers", because public awareness helps them when they are screening potential participants in the process.

    The second reason is to satisfy public curiosity about how their favorite stations are doing in general. The vast majority of listeners don't try to psychoanalyze the ratings and make guesses about whether or not changes will be made to "their" stations, so those numbers are quite adequate for that non-business purpose. It's only when someone shifts into being an "armchair quarterback" and tries to provide analysis and predictions when they lack access to the proper data (the demo breakouts) to do so that the inadequacy becomes obvious.

    The real problem comes when someone (or usually all of us) explain to a poster why their conclusions are without a factual basis, only to have them do the exact same thing when the next set of ratings comes out. Because then we get into "us vs. them" mentality discussions that really wouldn't need to happen if people would remember and accept the realities of what ratings are and aren't part of the decision-making process at stations.

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