Thursday, May 14, 2009

Radio Ratings Part 6: Burke Vs. TRAC-7

Nielsen's entry to Radio ratings this year reminded me of another similar misstep. Nielsen came into radio ratings exploiting resistance to the new PPM data. Arbitron has been handling that by trying to build confidence in it's new product. It's probably the right tactic, but really... Nielsen is launching a diary system, a system we know to be inherently flawed and inaccurate. Their goal is manipulable bad data to placate radio stations whose ad rates were undermined by the accuracy of PPM. Yes, it is my opinion that one party is knowingly selling bad data and the other party knowingly buying bad data. Welcome to radioland.Burke was founded in 1975 and in 1977 picked up Harry Bolger, the former development director of AC Nielsen to run things. In October of 1978 Burke Broadcast Research entered the radio ratings field with a telephone recall method. Hooper and Crossley had given up on telephone surveys in the 1950s. (Nielsen bought them.) The appeal of telephone surveys is that they are cheap. It's not accuracy, not demographics, and not speed. At the time they were competing with TRAC-7 which also used telephone surveys.

In the mid 1970s Arbitron had a virtual monopoly. Pulse went under in 1973, and radio stations lacked options. In 1977 RAB and NAB cooperated in hiring Audits and Surveys Inc. to develop a competing system. Audits and Surveys Inc. did a study that basically stated the obvious: you cant ask a respondent to recall a whole week of listening in one sitting. TRAC-7 focused on single day recall and large samples. It cost more but was more accurate. In contrast, Burke's sample wasn't even random...

Industry endorsement was not enough. When shopping for favorable data radio readily picked the generic over the brand. In the end Arbitron crushed both. TRAC-7 folded up in June of 1979 and Burke at the end of December. Burke still exists but is now dedicated to marketing research. Audits and Surveys appears to as well...