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Nielsen To Shutter RADAR, Network Radio’s Ratings Service Of Record Since 1972.

RADAR, the Nielsen audio service long considered the gold standard for network radio measurement, will cease operations in 2024. Nielsen says the closure is due in part to the fact that the vast majority of national network radio is transacted on its Radio Nationwide service. Nielsen has been informing clients of the change and publicly announced the news during a webinar for network radio clients last week.

Arbitron purchased RADAR in 2001 from Statistical Research Inc., whose co-founder and President Gale Metzger was a media research titan who invented the service in 1972 as a way for network ad buyers to see if their ads had run as promised, following some malfeasance in the industry. Radio's All Dimension Audience Research initially involved telephone-based surveys of radio listening married with ad logs from radio networks. Eventually, networks would require their affiliates to submit affidavits swearing the spots had cleared as purchased. A RADAR-validated network audience commanded a premium price.

Nielsen Audio’s Only Service With Commercial Ratings

RADAR became unique in the Nielsen constellation as the only audio service that provides commercial ratings. Participating networks provide Nielsen with commercial clearance records from their affiliates, which are merged with audience estimates from a database of 395,000 respondents. The pitch from Nielsen has been that this added accountability allows RADAR “to provide the best available forecast of a network’s future audience delivery and a high standard of reliable metrics for buying network radio.”

But over time, the demand for RADAR among agencies and advertisers dissipated as Media Monitors became the MRC-accredited spot verification authority in radio and Nielsen’s Radio Nationwide service evolved into the buy-sell currency for network and national business. The combination of spot occurrence data from Media Monitors with audience estimates from Nationwide gave national marketers a precise understanding of their as-run campaign audience deliveries without having to wait for affidavits.

With RADAR closing, it’s not clear if, or how, Nielsen plans to continue monitoring spot clearances for network radio. “We're examining it right now, but we don't have a definite answer,” Nielsen Director of Data Science - Audio Insights Jane Shapiro said in response to a client question during the webinar. “But it's certainly something that we're looking at going forward and as soon as we get to a resolution, we will share it out, provided there is one.”

Rolls Up Diary and PPM Audiences

Nationwide provides access to audience estimates across each of the individual 210 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) in the contiguous U.S. as well as Alaska and Hawaii. While RADAR reports are issued four times a year, Nationwide estimates come out twice a year from a sample of more than 325,000 PPM panelists and diary respondents. Metrics include average quarter hour and cume, which allows users to calculate gross impressions and gross rating points along with reach and frequency.

“You can roll the audiences up to a national audience or regional audiences if that's what you need,” Shapiro explained. “And you can also take a deeper dive into the individual DMAs and look at the stations that are affiliated with specific networks or stations that have other interest to you. You can start at the DMA level and look up and you can start at the DMA level and look down.”

In addition, radio networks, content providers, and other subscribers can add and edit affiliate lists on the fly, stitching together station lineups to come up with an audience projection. “If a particular program is in growth mode, you don't have to wait for the next Nationwide to come out to see the impact of adding stations to a lineup,” Shapiro explained. “You can automatically go into the system and manually add the stations that have just been added and see that reflected in the audiences.”

Unlike other Nielsen products that include software for processing reports, Nationwide is a data-only service. Clients typically contract with an independent software service provider, generally Act 1 Systems, to access the data through their system.

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