Should Nielsen Change Quarter Hour Credit Rule?


(By Buzz Knight) Recently, I wrote about the continuing decline of PUMM levels and how this should be a serious reminder about the importance of the industry’s commitment to talent and excellent execution.

Competitive options for consumers are plentiful and the business needs to showcase its best work 100% of the time.

Broadcasters have figured out the need to play within the quarter hour system so they can maximize listening credit (although some are still sloppy and are losing listening credit).

One must wonder if the quarter hour credit rule is hampering the business and stifling creativity at a time when we need it most?

This rule goes back to the 1940’s and 1950’s when radio programs were 15 minutes and longer in length, so it made logical sense for ratings to be measured in 15-minute units, thence the birth of the quarter hour metric.

Since then, EVERYTHING has changed with radio distribution BUT the quarter hour remains the metric of record.

Measurement companies (Arbitron and now Nielsen) have given a strange measurement benefit to clients with the 5 minutes = 15 minutes crediting rule if the hard quarter hour rule is adhered to.

Thank You for that but when you evaluate raw listener data you see so many instances of lost quarter hour credit.

This becomes less of an issue in Diary markets as listeners are more likely to round to the quarter hour rather than record their listening precisely.

When looking at PPM detail data you see those heartbreaking instances of a morning show listener who listens from 6:11 am till 6:19 am yielding a big fat zero in listening credit.

In this example a listening occurred for 8 minutes but zero credit.

Or how about the example of listening from 3:56 PM to 404pm where another 8 minutes of listening vanishes into thin air.

The ratings highway is littered with examples such as this illustrating the fragility of the ratings system and illustrating the fact that every meter counts.

Just to put the fragility under closer spotlight if a market 25-54 population is 2 million plus the number of weekly meters is under 700.

There is no doubt that the many editing rules that Nielsen deploys helps broadcasters gain listening credit.

Audience measurement in radio and television faces many challenges when it comes to all listeners being measured.

Nielsen deserves credit after years of complaints from clients for rolling out their PPM Headphone adjustment in 2020 which resulted in a lift in ratings for all markets and formats.

Both Arbitron and Nielsen have looked at the quarter hour credit rule and the implications of changing this over the years by creating an impact analysis evaluating what the change would mean.

In those instances, the lift was viewed as not significant enough to warrant the change.

Isn’t the radio industry at a point where any lift should be viewed as a good thing?

I believe this is at the very least a conversation and analysis worth having.

Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


  1. Nice to see “Lum and Abner” mentioned among the comments! Since 2011, I’ve been producing the “Lum and Abner” comic strip, complete with an audio adaptation for our blind friends. Click below for the web address. Free subscriptions!

  2. Looking at your examples, Buzz, I feel that Nielsen should loosen the old Arbitron standard (for one thing, why would they want to keep the predecessor company’s “rules” instead of creating their own?) and credit any listening over five minutes total that overlaps the quarter-hour markers to both quarters. That is no less fair than the present “five minutes in a quarter” and it is actually more fair because virtually every station will have these credits and thus the numbers will average out for everyone.

  3. A thought from an old, small unrated market guy. A program is a three to six hour shift…it may or may not contain news, weather, music (mostly), engaging content (rarely
    except talk and news radio most of the time) and a live person. Back in the day a 15-minute program was engaging content. A soap opera, Lum ‘n’ Abner, Jack Benny, Gunsmoke, Lowell Thomas, etc. were the reason to listen for the entire program (and for me as a kid, next week’s preview of the Lone Ranger, too). Today that’s not the case..the news nibbles, weather snippets and often badly used show prep tidbits aren’t enough to keep people engaged and validly measured. Measurement has to reflect valid listener behavior.

  4. Also with cpm’s becoming the currency standard across all media platforms including radio, every impression should count.


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