Background on Arbitron's Total Audience Measurement

Jan 23, 2012

Arbitron's Total Audience Measurement service aims to measure listening to all forms of audio, across all platforms.

As the growth in wireless broadband and mobile devices leads to increases in online listening, radio startups, incumbent broadcasters and their rating agencies are tussling over how that audience should be measured.  Ben Robins, a senior researcher with NPR’s Audience Insight and Research team, has put together a cogent summary of a measurement issue that's frankly obscure, hard to follow but ultimately critical to our future.  I urge you to read it.

My own take: In addition to competitive concerns about pure-play broadcasters (such as Pandora) stealing share and thus revenue, traditional radio broadcasters are trying to stem the erosion in ad rates that have accompanied the ascendance of digital platforms in television and print. 

We've taken a different tack and have chosen to embrace the digital opportunity even as we continue to sell radio underwriting. We're encouraging stations to do the same by putting them in a position to sell their digital underwriting spots separately from radio inventory. While those spots may go for a lower price (or CPM in industry parlance), they open us up to advertisers with digital budgets who otherwise would not buy radio. NPM and NPR Digital Services currently are working with about a dozen member stations to test technology from Triton Media (Ando) that allows them to "cover" their radio underwriting credits with separately sold digital credits on their station streams. As digital streaming become more important, we think this will be a critical service.