Friday, March 7, 2008

Do you still listen to radio?

Much has been written in the past couple of weeks about cutbacks in the radio industry both locally and nationwide. There have been major cuts announced in Boston at WBCN, WODS and WRKO for example.

The latest Boston area ratings were released by Arbitron on March 4th but they mean little in the real world. Arbitron doesn't allow any media -- general or trade -- to publish other than the overall numbers, for all listeners age 12 and older, from 6 a.m. to midnight every day. They're not taken seriously by time buyers, who go after listeners by age and sex, and by specific times.

What they give us translates as the percentage of those listening to radio in the area who are listening to a particular radio station for at least five minutes during a 15-minute period.

Still, the ratings give the top stations bragging rights. In Boston the Top 5 stations are WJMN-FM, WBZ-AM, WEEI-AM, WXKS-FM (KISS-108) and WODS-FM.

click here for the latest Boston numbers
please note that the college and public radio stations are not included with the exception of Harvard's WHRB which is a commercial station.

The Boston market still uses the old method of collecting data from selected listeners called the Arbitron Radio Listening Diary where selected consumers jot down their listening habits.

This will change in January 2009 when Arbitron will start using the Portable People Meter which Time Magazine called one of the inventions of the year for 2007.

Arbitron explains the new system on their website.

In New York the first released numbers using the new system sent shockwaves through the industry.

I have never met anyone who has even admitted to being part of the Arbitron diary system. I have never trusted ratings to be accurate and that goes back to when I was a child. In the early 60's my mother had a part time job where she would call people or phone numbers selected by the company that she worked for. One Saturday afternoon as my my dad and I were watching a Red Sox game on the old channel 5 she was making her calls. Not a single person she called was watching the Red Sox and most were watching wrestling on channel 4. My mom felt sorry for the Red Sox and she switched the data.

A month later wrestling was cancelled by channel 4.

In my own case I guess I am considered a mainstream listener as 3 of the stations I listen to are in the Top 5 (WEEI, WBZ and WODS) Of course given that I am over 55 advertisers could not care less about me as I am in the wrong demographic. I don't get it as I certainly haven't stopped buying things as I have gotten older.

However I must admit I listen to XM satellite radio about half the time. The music selection is better and there are no commercials to speak of. They do offer basic traffic and weather for Boston.

So what about your listening habits? Do they reflect what the ratings indicate?

Please let me know.

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