RadioandMusic
| 19 Nov 2019
RAM faces brunt of radio broadcasters

MUMBAI: Just as it enters the third year of its existence, the industry supported measurement system for gauging radio listenership - RAM- Radio Audience Measurement - is under the scanner.

Ironically, the radio broadcasters who campaigned for and supported RAM before and during its launch are the ones who are doubting its credibility now. What has prompted these broadcasters to question RAM are the allegedly major listenership shifts in the radio sphere 

After Big FM COO Tarun Katial voiced his opinions against the inconsistent RAM data (in an interview with radioandmusic.com), radio broadcasters with huge networks are being vocal about discrepancies in RAM data.

Radio Mirchi CEO Prashant Panday alleges, There have been a lot of rapid movements in a station's cumes and TSL, which is uncharacteristic of radio as a medium. Changes in a station's listenership would depend on programming and marketing initiatives taken but at times the numbers change without any co-relationship with actions taken....

Enjoins Radio City EVP and national programming and marketing head Rana Barua, We have been observing some discrepancies in the RAM data, which have been highlighted to RAM from time to time....

Barua mentions a case in point of a Delhi station which recorded an addition of 8.36 lakhs listeners (reach) in a single week. (Source: RAM, Wk 36, All 12+.) To further elaborate, he says the same station sees a 2.94 hour rise in TSL over the previous week (Source: RAM, Week 34, SEC AB 12+).

Radio One national programming director Vehrnon Ibrahim claims, Radio is about consistency and we have seen unexplainable jumps both up and down in our data and that of other broadcasters. We have experienced dips even though no changes have been made in the quality of the show and the market was not volatile to take away listenership for that week... 

Defending the allegations of inconsistency, TAM Media Research vice president Pradeep Hejmadi says, Broadcasters have a preconceived notion that audiences should behave in a prescribed way and when that fails issues of �inconsistency' arise. The purpose of research is defeated as the broadcasters use it to corroborate their hypothesis. We are in discussions with broadcasters and are resolving their issues. The measurement techniques, reporting cycle, validation process are absolutely consistent. Although such quantum shifts have been happening in the past as well, the radio industry is holding us at ransom due to factors like business squeezes, competition etc....

How foolproof is the diary method?

Radio broadcasters have been raising eyebrows against the diary method adopted by RAM. Constant fluctuations in the RAM data has made the broadcasters point fingers at issues like respondents not filling in the information on a daily basis 
Before the roll out of RAM, Media Research Users Council (MRUC) had initiated a survey to gauge the efficiency of dairy method versus recall method. MRUC general manager Sabina Solomon points out, It was clear that the day after recall method was more reliable than diary method but still radio stations opted for RAM. The diary method was scrapped by television medium before adopting the electronic measurement. So, if diary method wasn't considered effective for gauging television which has more attention span, how can a passive medium like radio adopt it....

Agrees RK Swamy/BBDO group senior media advisor PRP Nair, There is lot of clutter on radio and the stickiness factor is missing. So, if the data by the respondents flows in a consistent manner, the diary method can become more reliable... 

Barua opines, The diary method was adopted as it was seen to be more accurate than day after recall (which has high incidence of claimed listenership) and a more cost effective option to electronic measurement. Having said that, we have always looked at the diary method as an intermediate step to electronic measurement which would reflect real time listening....
Ibrahim feels that there is no need for nonstop sweep of RAM data on a weekly basis. Every where it's a quarterly sweep or six times a year at most, and not 52 times a year!... he says. Panday endorses the thought that there is no need for weekly RAM data.

Ironically, the only broadcaster – Radio Mirchi, which doubted the diary method adopted by RAM has been leading according to RAM data in the past few months. But Panday maintains, It is interesting to note that the early supporters of RAM are today opposed to them and our stand has been consistent. Our viewpoint on RAM has not  changed; we have always had issues with the diary methodology as there are some fundamental flaws in a manual diary system. Firstly, the sample size needs to be increased and secondly, it's a known fact that the diary is a weekly recall... system and needs to be looked into....

Radio consultant Sunil Kumar says, Since its inception, RAM has faced the fire from any broadcaster at a time. Despite its flaws, RAM is still a good indicative of radio listenership... 

Brushing away claims that diary method isn't foolproof, Hejmadi says, If we see major changes in the entry of the respondents, the supervisor concerned double checks the information. Secondly, all the dairies are double punched and validations are recorded. In cases of major changes in listenership in one pocket, we check if similar changes are happening in other areas and sometimes the quantum of change is fairly large. It is only after these validations that data is released in the market. Regarding jotting down of data, compliance issues from respondents can prevail with any form of measurement. Also, we don't start accepting a respondent's data the moment he is on roll, it takes a minimum of 11 weeks before we start accepting his observations... 

Does RAM matter to advertisers?

Two years since inception, RAM has been trying to create awareness about the medium by showcasing the listenership stats and educating the advertisers. Radio broadcasters are of the opinion that there are flaws in every measurement mechanism but if it gets accepted as currency, then it becomes an industry benchmark.

Its limited presence in four metros of the country acts as a drawback for it to be accepted as a benchmark on a national level. Radio stations had of late, begun to demonstrate their reach while selling their station to the advertisers.

RAM is also a tool for advertisers to plan their campaigns and add radio in their marketing mix. But the inconsistent data has acted as a spoiler believes Barua. Advertisers naturally look at data over some threshold time (read – weeks/months). Inconsistency only adds to credibility issues and raises doubts in the long term if it is not arrested and resolved....
In any research it's the questions asked that dictates the quality of answers, observes Ibrahim. He adds, There is a possibility for respondents to mention top of mind station, which is usually the most marketed station. This does not help the advertiser as he wants to know reach not awareness. The advertiser is on a look out for most heard station to use radio effectively and RAM defeats the purpose....

RAM data is not the sole determinant for an advertiser to invest money in a radio station, points out Sunil Kumar. All measurements command some credibility and money for the industry and place them in a better bargaining position by displaying the statistics of their positioning in the market. However, RAM is acts as one of the determinant apart from the positioning, target audiences, concept of the advertiser etc....

Nair adds, With the RAM data restricted to only four metros, it is not representing the real picture of radio. The potential of the medium is exhibited in the local markets and tool for gauging those areas are not available yet. Also advertisers don't essentially prefer a station with top ratings but a station with huge network.... In agreement with Nair, a Kolkata based radio station head puts forward that although his station has good ratings, specifically in the SEC AB segments that advertisers look for, the station still gets lesser ads compared to the big networks. Advertisers look for huge network although the local stations have deeper penetration in the regional markets 

Talking about RAM's effort in selling radio as a medium, Hejmadi offers, Advertisers are quizzed by the blankness of radio medium with only RODP spots as they see volatile changes in television. We have educated the advertisers by showing them clear engagement points, advertisers spend around 5-7 per cent on radio, so it of lesser priority. We give them a glimpse of how audiences have reacted and how they can make radio a platform of engagement...     

Going the electronic way

Pointing out flaws in the diary method, the radio broadcasters see measurements shaping the electronic way in the offing. Panday endorses, An electronic panel is a lot more robust but getting a larger sample size is important. We need a method that makes both achievable – more sample size and electronic measurement. I believe both TAM and MRUC are working on such systems....

Ibrahim proposes a better system but expensive method of people meter... to measure exposure rather than listenership. Such meters can track the amount spend by listeners for listening ads, which is crucial for advertisers. The people meter is being used in the US and is already generating new programming strategies to get better ratings. It is possible to skew RAM (diary) ratings without actually having more listeners, constant bombardment of the station name a frequency on and off air generates better RAM numbers but with the people meter this is not necessary as no recall is asked for. Thus data gathered by the people meter system will be more accurate than on a diary system,... he suggests.

However, the question is- Is the industry ready to spend on subscribing electronic methods? Ibrahim says, People meters... are expensive. But costs can be greatly reduced if the equipment is put on rotation, used in one market at a time for one week then moved on to the next market. This way, we could have quarterly sweeps thus covering 12 markets every 12 weeks with the same equipment....

Barua and Panday concur an electronic panel with a robust sample would be ideal for the industry provided it's cost effective and the radio industry should be ready to cough up more.

There have been talks of MRUC coming up with electronic tools of measuring listenership which would be a passive measurement. We are planning tools which won't be too costly for the industry to bear the expenses,... mentions Solomon 
With high costs involved, the electronic measurements would again have limited reach as not all the radio players in small towns might be willing to opt for such costlier listenership tools.

Diary method gives accurate stats of listenership as the respondents are asked to mark the station they hear the most. In electronic system, there would be too much of minute data coming out with every swap of channel, on the other hand, there is conscious crediting in diary method  In electronic, it would be behavioral patterns but not necessarily shift in listenership patterns. By adopting electronic methods, the stations must be open to atleast 40 per cent drop in their overall listenership as it would measure even advertising avoidance, ... retorts Hejmadi   

The way ahead

RAM stresses that although the industry is now questioning the consistency; it had adopted the findings of RAM data and tweaked their programming to suit the listener preferences.

Hejmadi continues, For many players, radio measurement is a new phenomenon. The market is such that the content is commoditized and presented in different forms with fine lines of differentiation. To have more segmented data, RAM had a year ago proposed increasing the sample size to the broadcasters, but no response has been received yet....

Panday solidifies the statement mentioning, To be fair, RAM wanted to increase the sample size, but broadcasters have somehow resisted coughing up a little more money....

For making RAM more robust, Panday further proposes, RAM should open itself up a lot more and broadcasters should be brought onto the technical committee. Broadcasters are left to the mercy of the weekly data, so we should have a technical committee where everyone gets to participate in making the research more robust....

Stay tuned to this space forTAM Media Research vice president Pradeep Hejmadi's interview.

Send in your comments to: anita.iyer@indiantelevision.co.in