New Online Radio Diary has negative impact on Fall 2016 ratings

kowchmedia EXCLUSIVE

kowchmedia consultant Steve KowchFrom where I sit On The Kowch, a lot of people in radio aren’t having a great Christmas this year because of the introduction of the new Online Radio Diary (ORD) during the Fall 2016 Numeris ratings. Industry sources have told kowchmedia the new audience measurement tool had such a negative impact on the ratings, that many radio stations across Canada will be forced to lower the price of their commercials. Preliminary estimates say lower priced commercials will cost them “millions of dollars” in lost revenue in 2017. A lot of sales reps may not hit their budgets in 2017. With the loss of revenue comes the possibility of budget cuts and more people in radio losing their jobs.

Numeris admits in a statement that the introduction of ORD during the 13 week 2016 Radio Diary Ratings conducted September 5th to October 30th “has created inconsistent tuning patterns for some markets” across Canada.

ORD resulted in as much as a 30% drop in hours tuned

This Fall, the Numeris Diary system was split between the new digital online ballots and the old-school paper diaries where many people who used those ballots would pick a station and draw a line through all the quarter hours from 6am to 8pm. In some cases, this resulted in inflated hours tuned for those radio stations.  The new digital radio diaries forced people to select the quarter hours they listened to, resulting in as much as a 30 percent drop in hours tuned in some markets. Less tuning means radio stations are forced to lower the rate they charge clients for their commercials.

Click here to see the Fall 2016 ballot rating results

In fairness to Numeris, I suspect this is more of a growing pain to move the ratings process into the modern digital age and away from antiquated paper ballots. Radio went through the same pain more than five years ago when Numeris introduced Portable People Meters (PPM) as the rating tool in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

When the first set of PPM results were released it was a pretty big shock to many – including me as the program director at CFRB in Toronto. PPM captured the audience listening minute by minute providing a more accurate reflection of who is listening and when.  Our numbers were down (compared to the paper ballots in the previous ratings period) and it impacted on our sales revenue. Within six months, budget cuts forced me to let go a lot of talented individuals we could no longer afford.

So, I share the pain of station owners, broadcasters, programmers and sales people impacted by the introduction of ORD. But these new digital ballots are the way of the future. While it will provide more accurate ratings, improved accuracy doesn’t always mean good news for radio stations that see their ratings fall.

Numeris looking into impact ORD has on ratings

 “With the range of ORD usage from 11% to 49%, Numeris will be doing further data analysis on a market by market basis since the choice of tool varies by demographic group and the proportionality of each group within the market,” Numeris said in a statement a few days after the release of the 2016 Fall diary rating results.

The statement was in reaction to the furor that erupted across the country by broadcasters reacting to results of the combined old and new diaries.

Patrick Grierson is President of Canadian Broadcast Sales

Patrick Grierson is president of Canadian Broadcast Sales (C.B.S.), the largest national radio sales organization in Canada. Its clients include 43 broadcasters and more than 400 radio stations in 221 Canadian markets.

“It’s all people want to talk about,” says Grierson who estimates total radio revenue could be down by an average of eight per cent because of ORD.

Grierson says some stations had minimal impact while other stations in the same market were hit hard. This was especially true in the Halifax and Ottawa markets. Grierson says ORD’s impact on one of his client stations in the 2016 Fall Ratings was a 47 per cent decline in the value of its commercials compared to the previous rating period. It went from $48 to $25 a unit. Grierson says he has commissioned a study into the financial impact of ORD on his radio clients across the country.

Numeris says radio stations should not compare the Fall rating results to the previous ratings. It recommends a minimum two-book average to establish an audience trend to come up with a new rate for its commercials. For Grierson’s client, a two-book averaging means $35 a spot instead of $25.

Numeris Vice-President of Research, Ricardo Gomez-Insausti believes ORD is good for radio because it is a more precise tool to measure radio diary audiences

“The new online data collection tool has successfully increased participation in younger demographics, specifically Adults 25-54, while at the same time brought in an improved qualitative profile of the radio audience,” says Gomez-Insausti.

From where I sit On The Kowch, nobody liked the paper ballots. People filling them out didn’t always mail them back to Numeris and radio didn’t trust the results.  ORD is the compromise to improve the accuracy of ratings. Numeris says the online option in the Fall 2016 survey brought in new younger respondents who previously refused to complete the paper diaries. The total sample size increased by 5.7 per cent compared to the Fall 2015 survey. It also increased the proportion of respondents with full time employment, university and post-graduate diplomas, and households with over $100,000 annual income.

Steve Kowch ran two of Canada’s largest newstalk radio stations in Montreal and Toronto for more than 14 years. He was National Director of NewsTalk Radio Programming for Astral Media. He was a professor at two of Toronto’s leading broadcast schools and is the author of   99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Making It BIG In Media   Today Steve is Canada’s leading media coach at kowchmedia helping emerging radio talent chase their dream to become great broadcasters.

Contact Steve at 647-521-6397 or email