You might think this is a little unusual and it certainly doesn’t happen much. Two Nielsen executives have written an article to tout the strengths of the Portable People Meter. One of those executives is Nielsen Audio Managing Director Brad Kelly, who was recently quoted by former CBS Radio Dan Mason saying the diary system still had legs.
That was one of the reasons that lead to Mason concluding that perhaps switching over to PPM wasn’t such a great idea. The article written by Kelly and Nielsen Chief Engineer Arun Ramaswamy is an attempt to show the radio industry that, in fact, PPM is a good way to measure listening and the new, more muscular CBET technology has made it even better.
The enhanced CBET product was rolled out by Nielsen in late 2015. Many in the industry believe that was a result of Telos’ Voltair increasing ratings in some PPM markets. Nielsen says the enhancement was always in the works and it didn’t take too kindly to someone technologically tampering with radio’s currency, although Nielsen never told subscribers it had to remove the product. In fact, some still use it to this day, even with the enhanced CBET. And Telos will soon be rolling out Voltair 2.0.
Nielsen says in the last year it has worked with the radio industry to update the definition of listening, as part of its continuous improvement program. “Our goals were to bring audio’s metrics in line with other media and better reflect a more complex consumer environment featuring greater exposure to a variety of media, as well as more simultaneous usage. The outcome was a significant enhancement to CBET, which we introduced in the fourth quarter of last year.” What Nielsen means by a more complex consumer environment, we believe, is all the loud noise that could surround a PPM panelist.
Nielsen Chief Engineer Arun Ramaswamy (left) says, “We’ve found that enhanced CBET makes the PPM codes stronger and more robust, which improves code detection in challenging acoustic environments such as low volume and/or high background noise conditions. Enhanced CBET was thoroughly tested in the lab and the field before it was deployed, and we received extensive feedback from a team of technical experts from various radio groups. We continue to work closely with our clients to implement this technology.”
Nielsen says field testing found an average increase of about 15% in AQH audience compared with the prior version of CBET among the tested stations. “The testing found that enhanced CBET improved detection for stations in all formats. In addition, studio testing demonstrated that enhanced CBET does not compromise audio quality. Since the rollout began in November 2015, nearly 3,000 U.S. stations have upgraded to enhanced CBET.” That represents three-quarters of Nielsen’s subscribers and about 80% of the minutes measured by PPM.
Nielsen says the results show a 13% year-over-year gain in listening among persons aged 6 and older. A skeptic would, of course, wonder where all this listening was before the enhancement. Why was the industry paying so much money for a product that now shows that much of an increase. There’s so much riding on ratings at a radio station.
Nielsen says these effects were also felt across the industry — each of the major format categories gained compared to last year. Spanish Language, Urban, Spoken Word, Adult Contemporary (AC), and Classic Hits/Oldies formats each had increases that exceeded the overall average.
Nielsen says the adoption and results of enhanced CBET are positive for the industry. “This enhancement brings audio metrics closer to how other media are measured and is better suited to today’s more complex media landscape, benefiting both broadcasters and advertisers. And it levels the playing field, because it is available on a system-wide basis and is applied in a unified manner across stations.”
Nielsen Audio Managing Director Brad Kelly (pictured right) adds, “We are pleased to find new ways to help the industry monetize its valuable audience and identify emerging opportunities.”