The great debate on radio listenership tracking methodologies fails to subside. The Media Research Users’ Council (MRUC) tried to offer something in this direction with Indian Listenership Track (ILT), the only syndicated radio research in India so far. Now TAM Media Research has announced the launch of Radio Audience Measurement (RAM).
Where ILT uses the DAR (Day After Recall) methodology, RAM will follow the ‘Diary’ methodology. The industry is expectantly looking for a common ‘currency’ on radio to boost advertising in the medium. However, with two data, a common currency looks difficult. In the current market scenario, most players have already chosen sides.
It should be noted that various players from the industry have voiced their discontent on DAR, and hence on ILT. Consequently, MRUC recently proposed to execute a pilot study in Mumbai that would look into both the DAR and ‘Diary’ methodologies. The results of the study are expected in August 2007. Nonetheless, players like Radio City, Big FM, Fever FM and Hit FM have already decided to go ahead with the ‘Diary’ method, and have endorsed RAM.
Red FM, despite being a part of RAM’s launch, has taken a neutral stand at present, where it will subscribe to both ILT and RAM. Radio Today on the other hand prefers the ‘Diary’ method, but has decided to wait and watch before subscribing to any service. As for Radio Mirchi, the station plans to stick with ILT as of now.
Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radio City is clear that the ILT has certain limitations because of its adherence to DAR methodology. She pointed out, “The respondents tend to recall the most visible station, which means the stations that they see plastered all over the city in hoardings, when they open their morning newspapers, and in ads on television. ILT does not cross-check the claimed listenership of the respondent with programme names, features and RJ names, which can give a clearer picture to the data. Hence, it is not reliable.”
Prashant Panday, Deputy CEO, Radio Mirchi argued on the other hand that mechanical ‘Diary’ method was an outdated way of tracking listenership. Even as he stated that there couldn’t be a better organisation than TAM to give a shot at the ‘Diary’ method, he stated that Mirchi is not comfortable with this technology.
Citing examples of alternate tracking methodologies for radio, Panday said, “It will take a few months to settle in the ‘Diary’ system, and by the time, the world would be moving out of the ‘Diary’ method, we would be moving into it. If we had to switch technologies, it really should’ve had been to a more progressive technology like a watch-meter or other electronic measurements. But mechanical diaries! They have to be joking.”
Panday is comfortable with ILT and when asked about MRUC’s initiative to test both methodologies, he said, “That is a good thing. At least then you are not moving blindly into a new form of measurement. He added, “The industry already has enough data. Do you need more data? I’m not too sure.”
For the likes of Purohit and Big FM’s COO Tarun Katial, ILT was not even considered as industry data due to DAR methodology. Red FM also agreed on that point. Katial in fact feigned ignorance on the pilot that MRUC has offered to conduct on both methodologies. For them, RAM means the ability to talk returns to clients, the ability to customise content and a station’s ability to price itself better and competitively, which in turn would take the three per cent share of radio to overall advertising revenues, to 10 per cent.
Panday however thinks that that is impossible. He said, “There is a fundamental problem here. Media planners still go back to large surveys like National Readership Survey to make their initial plan and since radio has a small share there, the medium does not factor in the plan in a big way. We need to bring correction at that level as an industry. Unfortunately, stations still talk price cuts while talking to advertisers.”
Where players like City and Big have taken a clear stance, the likes of Radio Today has yet not started worrying on data, since its stations are yet to launch. Anil Srivatsa, COO, Radio Today Broadcasting nonetheless stated that DAR has nothing to do with listenership, and is purely about whoever is the better marketer. He added, “As I haven’t yet gone through RAM’s methodology yet, I will refrain from commenting on it.”
Red FM has voiced its discontentment over ILT’s methodology on previous occasions but has decided to not discontinue from ILT or endorse RAM just yet. Abraham Thomas, COO, Red FM remarked, “I am optimistic about RAM, but cautious.” He pointed out that the methodology has to adapt itself for India, and that he will wait for the data to come before choosing a side.
He added, “However, I think it’s a step in the right direction as many of the radio players have already partnered this. My only objective of endorsing RAM now is that the industry should have a common currency, and only that can lead to a growth in advertising on radio.”
Can the industry have a common currency?
Mirchi has stated that even as it has not subscribed to RAM yet, it has requested TAM to continue dialogue and keep Mirchi informed on how the methodology shapes up. “If we are comfortable with RAM’s execution of this methodology by then, we will buy it,” said Panday.
RAM already has players like City and Big exclusively, and others like Hit, Fever and Red with them also. Where will Radio One or Radio Today go? We will soon find out.