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Nielsen Updates PPM ‘Headphone Adjustment Factor’ Starting With April Survey.

In October 2020, Nielsen introduced the so-called Headphone Adjustment Factor to better reflect listening on headphones and earbuds in its PPM ratings service. After years of complaints that the meters weren’t adequately measuring this listening, the company adjusted upward quarter hour estimates for encoded station streams to compensate for listening uncaptured by the meter. Now the Headphone Adjustment Factor has been updated, starting with the April 2022 PPM survey.

The original adjustment, which was made starting with the October 2020 survey, was based on data from a survey of 5,000 former PPM panelists, including a one-day online diary which participants submitted about their listening behavior. From that, Nielsen arrived at “lift factors” for individual demos based on a “ratio estimator” that associates the headphone survey data with PPM streaming data. The lift factors adopted then were the same for all markets and dayparts and stations may have noticed a one-time increase in their listening levels. The October 2020 adjustment resulted in a 4% month-over-month jump in total Average Quarter Hour Persons Using Measured Media (PUMM), the metric that measures total radio listening.

Now those factors have been adjusted “up slightly” from the original factors that were based on the 2019 survey of former panelists, according to Bill Rose, Senior VP of Audio Client Solutions at Nielsen. The new factors go into effect with the April 2022 PPM survey data.

More Radio Listening Online

The Headphone Adjustment Factor was developed in response to growing listening to radio streams on wireless headphones and limited use of the adapter Nielsen supplies to panelists for listening with wired headphones.

The percentage of AM/FM radio listening 12+ that occurs via online streaming currently stands at 11%, according to Nielsen, although it had jumped to 12% in January. In the all-important Persons 25-54 demo, the number is 12%, down from 13% in January.

“It was fairly consistent in 2021, ending the year around 11% (P12+) with seasonal expected changes,” Nielsen Audio VP of Audience Insights Jon Miller tells Inside Radio. “One factor in the January jump may have been holiday technology season and more opportunity to stream audio starting the year.”

Up Next: ‘Big Data’

In the short-term, Nielsen plans to continue to rely on the headphone adjustment method to reflect listening taking place on headphones, even as it introduces wearable PPM devices into the market this year. But that could change when the company fires up its Nielsen One cross-media measurement service. “Our plans with Nielsen One for audio are to use big data as a supplement to our panel data,” Rose explained to clients during a recent webinar about the new wearable meters. “And when we get that big data, the chances are that will become the source of listening for digital. And the need for using the adjustment factor will go away. But for at least the near-term, the headphone factor will be the method in which we adjust the audience estimates to account for that,” Rose added.

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