Revision to metro areas

For the most part, this won’t really affect anybody, but in case somebody notices…

Radio and TV and the FCC focus on this term called DMA, which stands for designated market area. It is similar to, but different than, the MSA which is the government’s metropolitan statistical area used by the census department. Both are generally trying to describe a large group of people who live generally in the same area, not constrained by state boundaries or political subdivisions.

A good example would be Saint Louis – the bulk of St Louis is in Missouri, but East St. Louis is in Illinois across the Mississippi River. Radio’s methodology for DMA used by the (RAB Radio Advertising Bureau) is to put counties into one Metro area. However, on the Missouri side the City of st. Louis is actually only a small part of the metro area.

The way things evolved, perhaps a hundred different distinct small communities grew up around the city, each with their own Police departments, fire departments, City governments and speed traps. (Ferguson is an example of this) The lack of precision about where the listeners actually are and where radio signals reach is very effective at manipulating perceptions of audience in order to maximize your advertising revenue. It also facilitates what they call “moving in” radio stations into a metro area. You license your radio station to a small little town way far away from the Central City, after you have the license and pretend to serve that community, then you decide to move the station closer to the big city, but still hearable in your original small town. Then after another five years when people forget why you got the license in the small town, you try to move the radio station even closer to the big city, which is where the big money is, even if your signal doesn’t actually cover more than a small part of the big city.

So in the spirit of creating further confusion and obfuscation, I’ve decided to use an entirely different methodology – based on the post office mail distribution system. As you know, the original ZIP code consists of five digits, the first three of which identify a metro area and the last 2 indicate a specific post office or special use, like a mail drop for utility companies, or IRS service centers. About 1/3 of radio licenses are in small places, some of which are not even places with governments.

So my new methodology (only for stations not already assign) is
– use the license community and state to see if they have a post office
– use the first three of the ZIP code of that post office, and determine which town or city has the largest aggregate population
– if that town or city already is included in a metropolitan area, assign the small town to the same metro area

So for example, Pineville NC is in 28134. The largest place in 281xx is Monroe, NC, which is considered part of Charlotte, hence I consider any place in 281xx as Charlotte metro area, which includes in descending population

and more…

Noticably absent is Gastonia, which is in 280xx, whose largest community is Concord, also considered Charlotte area.

The approach is not perfect, and it creates the situation where I have assigned a station to a metro area where the station cannot be heard in the big city, just the area in between. A case where this does not work is Hawaii. The only metro area in Hawaii is Honolulu, but if you are not on the big island then it doesn’t really make sense to assign your station to Honolulu. But it does help me organize the research to focus on important regions, and pay less attention to really really small places like Eureka Kansas.

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1 Response to Revision to metro areas

  1. Fred Stiening says:

    Given that my list is 20 years old oh, I thought it might be a good idea to update the market sizes. I went to the official Nielsen list, and realize there’s a major piece of deception going on. I don’t think it is always been this way, but I really don’t follow this stuff closely

    The current Nielsen designated market area list is sorted by “TV households”, not by population or number of TVs. I strongly suspect that people in the country not legally are being excluded from the statistics. Nielsen claims to be very meticulous about how they calculate these numbers. Let’s say you have a college town like Ann arbor Michigan – how many TV households are there in each dormitory?

    This approach would seem to denigrate parts of the country that have a large number of individuals living in a household. In New York City (Manhattan) the average number of people per household is 2.1. In Salt Lake City, 2.45 This 16% distortion makes the coasts look much more important than “flyover country”.

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