Berating the ratings: CRA boss defends current system despite criticism

Staff Writer

Almost since we first began measuring radio listenership, there have been questions about the methodology and the accuracy of results.

2DayFM’s Em Rusciano is the latest to throw a bit of gasoline on the fire after the disappointment of last week’s survey result.

While she considers her breakfast show to be number one in the country for engagement on Facebook and Instagram, survey seven saw it record its worst ever result.

And she wasn’t happy, calling ratings system “archaic” and in desperate need of an overhaul.

Commercial Radio Australia chief executive officer Joan Warner is having none of it. She’s defended the radio ratings as ‘robust, consistent and reliable’.

Employing a combination of paper and electronic diaries, Ms Warner says the methodology is considered “world’s best for measurement of radio listening”.

Research firm GfK has also rejected the criticism, pointing to its decades of experience measuring radio listenership across Europe.

However, there is change in the air. But, it’s not the ‘overhaul’ that Rusciano has demanded.

As announced at this year’s Radio Alive conference in Melbourne, the ratings system is to undergo a multi-million dollar make-over.

CRA says it will provide “additional insights” into how Australians are consuming radio factoring in wearables, apps and streaming data.

Ms Warner told the conference the objective is to provide an ‘holistic’ view of Australian radio listening.

Only time will tell whether that approach will silence the critics.


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21 Nov 2017 - 4:28 pm

If you telling me that a thousand people with a paper book ticking what they are listening to is “robust” I must have landed on another planet.
It’s criminal to think of the millions of advertiser dollars that are spent based on this mockery.
One day when everyone streams audio- there will be a fair chunk of the radio industry that are looking for a job.

21 Nov 2017 - 5:16 pm

Interestingly, a few surveys ago when The Em Show had a slight increase in ratings, she was VERY happy to celebrate this archaic system. No doubt it needs an overhaul but Em, sweetheart, you can’t have your cake and spit it out when it suits you.

21 Nov 2017 - 5:24 pm

Bring in PPM and crack up the Voltair

Problem solved.

21 Nov 2017 - 5:30 pm

I think the SSM survey results show that around the 800 mark gets great results. Survey after survey pointed to very similar numbers and most of those surveys were less than 1000. And when the results come out they were bang on. what was that? Surveys of 800 people got very near results to a survey of 12 million??? Yes I would understand that if Em got 1 bad survey she could blame it on a bad book but 7 in a row? Wow Em you must be the unluckiest person, oh and I bet KJ who are pushing well over the 100 survey mark just got lucky in most of them? In the SSM survey the odd one pointed to Yes winning 77% and one pointed to a 52% win from memory but that is why you do these 8 times a year in metro markets, A good salesperson should be able to explain to a client what a bad book is but unfortunately for 2day you cannot explain 40 bad books. Furthermore, if her online engagement is what is making SCA money why is she even worried about the survey results anyway? And let’s be honest we all know that most of Sydney is listening to KJ, this is not Em or Harleys fault, I think they do a great show, but in amongst the best shows in the country, if not the world this market is all but impossible to crack, the only way to crack the market is to stay in it for years, at the end of the day Em needs to realise that the reason her show rates so poorly is not because it is a bad show (because it isn’t) but because it is a new show in a market with the best, the ratings are correct everyone who works in Sydney radio knows this. A realistic expectation is a 6+ within 4 years.

21 Nov 2017 - 6:47 pm

So the host of a breakfast show that rates a paltry 2. 9 has claimed that the ratings system is not fair……….now could someone interview Alan or Kyle and get their opinion?

21 Nov 2017 - 9:17 pm

Call me ignorant (not a Tech) but surely with our technology there could be a way that maybe identifies what each household is tuned on (sounds basic I know, but hoping advancement with digital age). Understand cost is a factor, but when it comes to ‘accuracy’… Not referring to this paper method, but the fact that I’very heard that a ‘regional’ station was receiving land line calls in studio (where Announcers were surveyed) and asked what they listen to seems flawed to me? But more importantly, unsure how this could occur? When I know of two occasions this took place. How can stations be assured that other calls are legitimate based on such error? Checks should obviously be done b4 making the call during ratings period you would think?!

21 Nov 2017 - 9:22 pm

Oops *I’ve

21 Nov 2017 - 9:37 pm

@TheT is that like the warning of when video was going to kill the Radio star? Streaming continues to grow as does commercial radio audiences. How and where they listen has changed as has how long they listen for but consumers of Radio is strong. As an industry we can believe the hype which has been around for decades that something new is about to kill Radio or believe what we know good decent Radio has a place driven by localism and relevance

Matt D
21 Nov 2017 - 11:39 pm

No ratings system is perfect.

So, if you choose to measure streams…
1. How does that work with multiple people listening at home/work
2. What if it’s streaming to an empty room (volume down, Sonos on!)
3. What about bots and automated listening?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with collecting and using streaming data, but like anything, it’s not a magic bullet.

PPM – the US experience shows also has some trouble. It’s hi-tech, but expensive, which means the sample size is very small, which is very unhelpful for smaller stations. The encoded signal also picks up some formats better than others – this has meant that formats like Jazz have disappeared.

Some respondents realised that there were movement detectors in it, so rather than get told off for leaving that home, some clipped it to a fan in the home!

Again, nothing wrong with using PPMs to measure, as many countries do, but again – no magic bullet!

22 Nov 2017 - 1:04 am

The ratings system is fine. It can deliver the odd bad bounce but overall is fine. Em’s show is the problem not the system. She may be ok at comedy but doesn’t translate into breakfast radio sorry.

Not Helpful
22 Nov 2017 - 3:31 pm

@Curious the obvious solution would be to capture the RDS in the signal although that would mean the survey subject would be limited to a particular receiver.

Only anecdotally I’m not sure a lot of people stream terrestrial radio, although with the iphone without a headphone jack its the only option but that strikes me as it you stream when there is no other option.

Outside coverage area not available through other means etc, most places that don’t have terrestrial radio coverage won’t have any kind of mobile data service as well, streaming still has a data cost or is it me just been cheap. It helps community stations that usually are limited in power and network size but for a commercial station you’d have to have some pretty compelling content for someone to want to stream and I don’t think kardashian (however you spell it) news will cut it.

Would be interesting to see if the survey process defines a difference between listening and the radio been on in some kind of muszak capacity.

23 Nov 2017 - 10:36 am

RDS would not be a reliable means of audience measurement due to it not being reliable enough in bad signal areas.

and Believe me… we dont want PPM in Australia.. adding tones to music makes FM stations sound very strange


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