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This Demo Do-Over Would Excise 6-11 and 80+ Panelists.

Two months ago, Dan Mason wrote an open letter to Nielsen suggesting it rethink how it carves up the audience demographically. Riffing on that theme, Research Director is calling for a “Demo Do-Over” at the ratings giant. But while the former head of CBS Radio called for a realignment that would “give advertisers a more defined target” and “reflect a realistic change in who uses radio in 2023,” Research Director is more focused on funneling sample from little used demos to the ones that advertisers actually care about.

That starts by ditching the Persons 6-11 demo in PPM markets. When Nielsen expanded the sample to include tweens at the start of PPM some 15 years ago, radio scratched its head. It was for television, the industry was told, and for Disney, which at the time had a stable of Radio Disney affiliates.

“In reality, all it does is flood the sample with useless participants. Has anyone ever gotten an avail from 6-11-year-olds? Does anyone get bonused on their 6+ ratings? This demo is not surveyed in diary markets and that seems to have worked out nicely,” says Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant at Research Director. “Let’s take that sample and plow it back into demos that actually matter to broadcasters.”

And while we’re at it, how about lopping off some demos at the other end of the spectrum? Research Director would like to see any panelists who are above the age of 80 removed from the panel. “This is not a demographic advertisers covet,” it says in the blog post. “We see too many clients with meter keepers in their 80s and 90s. Sure, they are often heavy radio users, but they also skew a station’s median age.”

Insufficient sample sizes have long been radio’s biggest complaint about Nielsen ratings. “Eliminating useless demo cells” and redirecting Nielsen recruitment efforts to beef up the demos advertisers care about “can make the overall sample stronger and more consistent,” Allan reasons.

While Nielsen measures media consumption above the 55+ segment, it’s not an audience advertisers are lining up to buy. Yet older Americans have massive spending power. According to the AARP “Longevity Economy Outlook” report, consumers aged 50 and up contribute $8.3tn each year in economic activity to the US economy. In fact, if Americans aged 50+ were their own country, they’d be the third-largest economy in the world, according to WARC.

And that was one of the main arguments espoused by Mason in his LinkedIn post. Under the Mason Doctrine, 18-49 would downsize to 20-40 and 25-54 would age up to 41-64. That way, the demographic cliff that currently ends at age 54 would shift to 64, thereby adding a slew of core radio listeners.

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