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Nielsen’s mSurvey Aims To Track A More Holistic Audio Pie.

Nielsen will capture more than just AM/FM radio listening with its forthcoming mSurvey (see separate story). The new listening collection instrument for diary markets acknowledges that people are consuming other audio sources and allows them to record their listening to podcasting, the online streams of broadcast radio stations and music pureplays, and satellite radio.

While PPM measurement shows roughly 12% of listening to a radio station today takes place via the stream (Edison Research pegs it at 13%), the diary doesn't provide that level of granularity. The mSurvey aims to provide a more holistic picture of audio listening. “The survey design allows for any type of streaming entry, so we can capture listening to anything people listen to, and this data will roll into custom analyses and insights, initially,” Tunkel explains. Collecting listening data on other audio sources “gives us a view into what's going on in the marketplace to plan for future product development… It then allows us to have much deeper conversations with [clients] and provide insights that will help them plan for and strategize about where they make their content available.”

But don’t expect to see podcasting, satellite radio, or pureplay listening estimates in Nielsen’s local market reports. “Our local market ratings reports and software remain designed to report on FCC-licensed call letters and the streams associated with those call letters,” Tunkel explains.

Testing Now Underway

Will Nielsen get blowback from its radio clients about asking diary-keepers to track their listening to competitors like satellite radio? There will certainly be time for feedback as mSurvey will undergo a battery of tests before it is commercialized next year. Nielsen is known for rigorous testing when it makes a significant change in ratings methodology. Years of trials took place before the PPM was commercialized, including side-by-side tests. The introduction of wearable PPMs was also thoroughly vetted. That’s because a change in methodology can impact compliance rates, listening levels, and affect some demos and formats more than others.

A battery of tests is slated before mSurvey is commercialized sometime next year. Two early phase tests have been completed: one with a small panel of people in fall 2023 and a larger “friends and family” test completed a few weeks ago. A trial with former diary-keepers, expected to wrap up by the end of June, will examine the user experience and design. A targeted separate sample audience test is scheduled for the back half of this year. The final milestone is a full separate sample audience test in the first part of 2025. Those latter tests will study the impact on response rates, proportionality, and listening levels.

Nielsen has presented the plan to its clients and various oversight committees, and recently provided more detail to the Media Rating Council. Tunkel says MRC provided positive feedback. “People understand moving away from paper and pencil to this form of measurement just makes sense,” he says. “But everyone's holding out judgment to see what the results look like, when they see the audience estimates.”

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