The music gets louder

Updated: May 31 2007, 05:30am hrs
Rival measurement tools are not uncommon in the Rs 15,000-crore Indian advertising and media industry. Among readership surveys, for instance, the industry has been long divided between the National Readership Survey (NRS) and the Indian Readership Survey (IRS). Though talks of a merger of the two have been doing the rounds for some time now, nothing has happened yet.

Television audience measurement, meanwhile, has two rival services as wellTAM and aMap. Although TAM is the industry currency, aMap, over the years, has emerged as an alternative for broadcasters wanting to know the viewership of their channels and programmes. Tapan Pal, chief executive officer, aMap, claims that nearly all broadcasters in the north are subscribing to the service. However, there are primarily two main supporters of aMapZEE TV and NDTV.

Theres no denying that rival measurement tools are here to stay as long as there are takers for it. Indeed, whos supporting whom can make a crucial difference in the launch of a rival system. For instance, in the radio industry some five broadcasters including Radio City, Adlabs Radio, which runs Big FM, Red FM, Clear Media, which runs Hit 95 FM in Delhi and HT Music, which has Fever 104 in Mumbai and Delhi, have come together to support an alternate currency called Radio Audience Measurement (RAM). So far, the industry had one measurement service in the Indian Listenership Track (ILT) from the Media Research Users Council (MRUC). With RAM, which will go live in September, the industry has another mechanism to gauge listenership.

ILT, for the uninitiated, is a quarterly service, which uses the day-after-recall (DAR) method to measure listenership. It covers three cities including Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata and has a sample size of 2,000 individuals per quarter. What RAM, which is a joint service of TAM Media Research and market research agency IMRB, will do is use the time-tested diary method to measure listenership. RAM ratings will be available on a weekly basis much like TAM. The cities covered initially will be Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore using a sample size of 480 individuals per city. Over time, says LV Krishnan, chief executive officer, TAM Media Research, the service will cover more cities. We are looking at an electronic measurement as well, which we may introduce later.

The advantage of the diary method over DAR, explains Apurva Purohit, chief executive officer, Radio City, is that it is robust and rigorous. With the awareness technique, the respondent more often than not is stating what is top of mind for him or her. It may not be the most accurate way to measure listenership.

This point is corroborated by broadcasters supporting RAM. Says LS Krishnan, president, Clear Media; The crucial point here is that it is a robust and continuous study. Says Sajjad Chunawala, station head, Fever 104, This is a better methodology than DAR. And we welcome it. Says Tarun Katial, chief operating officer, Big FM, If the market has to segment, players first need to understand what audiences prefer, their likes and dislikes and listenership habits. This is possible with a robust measurement system.

But not everybody is convinced that the diary method is better than day-after-recall. At least not MRUC, which has commissioned a pilot study to evaluate the effectiveness of the two methodologies. The dairy method has its limitations. Respondents may not actually fill the diary everyday and may opt to do so on a single day. Secondly, you are depending on recall again to fill up the dairy, says Sabina Soloman, general manager, MRUC.

This is precisely why in the TV industry, the diary method, used extensively in the 1980s, made way for people meters in the 1990s. But Mark Neely, director, media research, Nielsen Media Research, IMRBs joint venture partner in TAM, which is also supporting RAM says that the minute-by-minute coverage by people meters in TV may not be suitable for radio. The electronic system is not fully developed, he says. Most radio markets in the world use the diary method as opposed to awareness methodologies.

The only markets as of now that use an electronic system to measure listenership include Switzerland and some parts of America. A big factor for the unenthusiastic response to electronic systems is the cost. It is very expensive to run an electronic measurement service in radio, which has prevented its growth.

Beyond bullet points

Radio Audience Measurement
Cost dynamics
TAM CEO LV Krishnan says that the cost of the RAM service works out to about Rs 12 lakh per city per subscriber per annum. That means, it is Rs 36 lakh per annum for three cities. MRUC, on the other hand, says that the cost for doing the ILT in the three markets works out to about Rs 40 lakh per annum.
Methodology
In the DAR method, information about what the listener has heard yesterday is collected across 15-minute time bands for all stations. Listenership data is provided across demographic breaks and time bands. Even the frequency is mapped.
The diary method, in contrast, will look at reach of radio stations and broad viewing habits apart from what kind of device is used to consume radio and household demographics.
Whos on whose side
Radio Mirchi, Fever 104, Red FM, Hit 95 FM, Radio One FM 94.3 continue to subscribe to ILT Interestingly, some of the above-mentioned broadcasters have invested in RAM as well, but not Mirchi and Radio One FM. However, Radio One FM has expressed its interest to subscribe to RAM, though it is unclear whether Radio Mirchi has done the same. Meanwhile, Big FM and Radio City do not subscribe to ILT. Big FM stopped subscribing to the service from this year, while Radio City has not being buying ILT for the last two rounds.
Television Audience Measurement
The television industry, as we have said in the story, has two rival audience measurement servicesTAM and aMap. What differentiates the two services is the technology used for delivering viewership data. aMap, which has a sample size of 27,504 individuals across 6,000 metered homes to TAMs 35,000 individuals in 7,000 metered homes, can provide data on a daily basis.
That is, yesterdays viewership data can reach the subscriber the following morning by 9.30 am. This is possible through a GSM modem, which electronically transfers viewership data from the metered homes to a central server between 2.00 and 5.00 am in the morning. Data is then transferred from the server to the subscriber. This process eliminates the possibility of human error and brings speed. TAM, on the other hand, has deployed GSM technology in the four metros as of now. In the other towns, data is collected manually.