FM operators want larger sample size, more accurate data collection

Radio operators welcome TRAI’s decision to relook at the current audience measurement system in place for radio broadcasting in the country and feel a more modern and inclusive system will help the industry and advertisers

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Apr 1, 2016 7:59 AM
FM operators want larger sample size, more accurate data collection

The heads of the major radio operators were expected to meet this week to frame a reply to TRAI’s consultation paper on the radio audience measurement system in place currently. TRAI had asked private operators to give their suggestions regarding the same, with the last date of submission being April 25, 2016.

In a statement, TRAI appreciated the fact that the current system has been long deemed inadequate and not entirely credible by a number of radio operators. “Transparency, trust, credibility and acceptability of the radio audience measurement are the key elements for its success,” said TRAI in its statement. Radio operators have long questioned the accuracy of the “diary methodology” that is currently being used to carry out the measurement as well as the overall sample size, which is just 480 individuals across 4 cities (Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai).

“The current system is outdated in its methodology as all day live mediums like radio cannot he measured by diary method of recall and that too with such small samples. In an age of digital RoI delivery, the current system of measurement is archaic therefore inaccurate,” said Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD at Radio One.

On similar lines, Prashant Panday, MD and CEO at ENIL, calls the current measurement system (RAM) “a joke”. “Imagine a sample size of 480 odd in complex cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. Imagine no estimation study update done for 4-5 years. Imagine the research not even catching “dead air” in transmission (meaning if a station is off air, the listenership is still shown like regular!). Imagine field work issues. Imagine credibility issues (how many broadcasters subscribe?). I think RAM should be stopped immediately,” he stresses.

Similar concerns have been echoed by other radio heads too. In fact, the accuracy of the current system is considered so questionable that some heads claim that they, as well as advertisers, do not consider the weekly RAM ratings at all while negotiating deals. We spoke with some radio heads to find out what would be their suggestions to TRAI regarding any new system that could potentially be put in place.

 “What we need is a higher sample size, more modern research technique. I think radio is a simple medium and a low involvement at that. Expecting people to remember when they heard radio last is impossible. So diaries are out (Diary Methodology). Electronic (Digital system as used in some other countries) would be great but provided the sample size is not compromised. I would go with even the ordinary DAR, if sample size is large. Radio habits are solid; people will tell you when they heard if asked clearly,” opines Panday, further adding that the industry’s suggestions to TRAI would be more or less along the same lines.

Tarun Katial, CEO at RBNL, which runs Big FM agreed that though they do follow the current RAM ratings system, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed. Giving his thoughts, he said, "RAM has brought measurability to radio and has enabled brands and radio stations to measure deliveries. It has been a widely accepted measurement mechanism for advertisers as well. It will be beneficial for all the stakeholders involved if RAM expands its scope to the key 15-20 cities in the country and add electronic measurement to it to receive data on a real time basis. It should also have the ability to measure radio listening on mobile devices."
He agreed that it is “mandatory” to have an effective performance rating system in place to evaluate radio audience measurement, which will eventually help in the advertisers’ decision making process. When asked for his specific suggestions to TRAI, he said that a few scenarios were being looked that at that might be the best bet to improve the mechanism and be generally accepted.
“We believe that RAM is a trusted method and with the addition of the below suggestions, it will take care of expansion in the new markets. The scope of current coverage should increase to the top 15 – 20 cities in the country. The listenership of FM radio on mobile devices should be added while measuring data. A continuous weekly measurement needs to be followed in the top 15 cities, quarterly measurement in the top 20 cities and annual measurement in the rest of the markets. There is no need to do a weekly measurement across all markets. With the change in technology, we can add more efficiencies with electronic meters, making it an even stronger and complete radio audio measurement package,” he added.
“The suggestion for TRAI is to not try and 'repair' RAM as it is a dead duck but talk to the FM operators and look for more robust technology and measurement process that allows not allow accurate measure of reach but that of live engagement. Also sample sizes and penetration of study that allows the correct depiction of an industry that is even in the short term going to be in 300 towns and cities versus the ridiculous and insignificant RAM reports of 4 cities,” added Hukmani.

Abraham Thomas, CEO at Radio City 91.1 FM also agreed that any move that brings greater clarity to the sector would be welcome. “While we will continue to study the report and its implications further, it suffices to say that Radio City welcomes any move that helps in increasing the transparency, trust, credibility and acceptability of radio audience measurement,” he said.

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