Nielsen as a data source

Up until about a year ago, Arbitron was the 900 pound gorilla in radio ratings – literally. Compiling ratings for radio is extremely expensive and radio owners tend to be “cheap” and try to use Arbitron’s data without paying for it, which will get them dragged into court so fast your head will spin, and Arbitron will win. The case law is on their side.

To combat this further, Arbitron stopped publishing the ratings data for non-subscribers to the public. Advertisers demanded a more reliable method than paper diaries to confirm people actually listened to the radio, weren’t just saying they did. This expensive new technology found massive fraud in the diary system, including people fabricating household members who don’t exist.

About a year ago, Arbitron gave up and was acquired by Nielsen, the TV ratings folks. They seem more interested in finding the truth for advertisers, not hiding radio’s lies.

Arbitron has a station search that can be useful, but like all sources needs to be used with judgement

Nielsen/Arbitron requests that stations submit a “Station Information Profile” (SIP) that includes information like the format, website URL and whether the station streams – that would seem to be a treasure trove of useful information, since reliable information at Arbitron is directly used by national advertisers.

But here is the flaw that makes the data inconsistent on its reliability
– small cities are not rated by Arbitron
– non-commercial stations don’t have advertisers and limited interest in ratings
– non-subscribers are not pestered to update their profile

When I get a chance, I’ll add a link, but like Wikipedia, don’t take that one piece of information as complete. Until you see a web site controlled by the owner, it’s still just a guess.

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