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Measuring radio listenership real time – The techway…

Radio is one of the most effective mediums of communication due to its hyper-local connect. Thanks to frequency modulation (FM) technology, based on the power of the amplifier, used for the transmission/broadcasting from the tower, the radio signals can clearly be captured by radio sets/mobile phones with FM radio features up to 60–75 km radial distance on a good weather condition. It helps in making radio a highly personalized medium in a given territory since both the content and the listeners are from a specific geographical region, having a similar taste, dialect, issues, etc.

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The big challenge of radio – Measurement
Newspaper in India is mainly consumed through subscription. Once a paper is subscribed, it reaches that household for a few months (generally at least 3 months). So, the readership of any newspaper remains more or less constant for a quarter. The mechanism to evaluate readership of newspapers through a physical survey called IRS (Indian Readership Survey), conducted every quarter, helps get an effective insight into the consumption patterns of the newspaper in any region. This helps improve the product and also help advertisers to plan their media.

In the case of television, this analysis is done with the help of a technology called people meter. This is a special meter put up in a few thousand television sets basis the desired sample data representing the larger population of the region, and we get to know the viewership of TV. This technology has been in use for a few years and the results are very effective. But the evaluation of the listenership of radio is a big challenge. Radio can be heard through multiple instruments, viz., radio sets, mobile phones, car dashboards, etc.; so, the placement of any instrument like people meter is difficult.

The loyalty of any listener is with the content, the channel is changed at a push of a button as soon as the listener finds the content being aired on the radio is not of his choice. A physical survey conducted once in a quarter (like IRS) will give very weak results since a person changes channels at least 2–3 times in a single listening time, and he cannot tell about the change/consumption of the radio channel accurately after 3 months.

The diary method used for radio audience measurement (RAM) asks listeners to notify their consumption pattern in a diary daily. It gives idea about the listenership, but again since the documentation is dependent of the listener and is done once in a day at the end of the day, it also does not reflect the precise natural pattern. To improve the content of the radio channels, and for advertisers to plan their spending on radio, there is a need to develop a mechanism to measure the listenership in real time similar to TV. This is possible with the use of technology.

Use of technology in the measurement of radio

An app has been developed, that, if installed in mobile phones will control the chip of the transmission of FM radio and the content of the radio will be routed through this app. The app will monitor consumer behavior in real time, e.g., when and which channel is being heard; when was it switched on or off; for how long the channel was heard; which type of show/songs were heard; etc. We can further integrate AI-based audio sensors (similar to the one found in portable people meter (PPM) used by Nielson’s Audio, formerly Arbitron in US) in the app that will recognize the sound/mnemonics of any particular radio that is being heard through instruments other than mobile phones.

The PPM is a wearable portable device, much like a pager, that electronically gathers audible and subaudible codes that identify the source of a broadcast, such as a radio station. This will record/monitor the channel being heard through any external instrument by recognizing the sound of the station by the app. This feature will get activated as soon as the radio gets ON. The app downloaded on a pre-decided sample, representing the larger population, will monitor the listenership on radio stations in real time. Now that the technology is ready for use, all radio operators will need to come together to regularize this feature, and make it a common currency of use to take the radio to the next level.

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