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Q100 flagged for Nielsen Audio ratings 'distortion' effort

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Monday, May 9, 2016

Nielsen, which tracks monthly radio ratings, flagged top 40 station Q100 (WWWQ-FM) for a contest in which they attempted to suss out survey panelists, a big no-no in the business.

The integrity of the radio ratings system - which many advertisers use to base ad rates - relies on anonymity. Nobody besides Nielsen and the users are supposed to know who is being measured.

If radio stations were able to contact the residents wearing "people meters," all sorts of distortions could happen. And given the relatively small sampling (1,640 meters are out there in metro Atlanta at any one time for a population of 5.6 million), it only takes a handful of "dedicated" listeners to skew the ratings numbers.

Nielsen included a "special notice" in the April 2016 ratings about Q100's transgression but no direct punishment. The problem: Q100 in an online form to loyal listeners in March explicitly asked if they were using a people meter. Fishing for PPM users is not acceptable, Nielsen wrote. And it might also "prompt" those who are Q100 fans to say yes to participating in the people meter surveying.

There is no evidence Q100 was able to identify any actual panelists. And the survey now no longer has the question. Here is Nielsen's explanation in full:

Credit: Rodney Ho

I have reached out a Q100 executive and am awaiting a response.

Nielsen released this statement:

"Special station activities tend to be different from one another and acting in full transparency, Nielsen added a special notation to the April 2016 eBook. Nielsen is committed to maintaining the highest standards of data integrity and will continue to act swiftly to ensure that those standards are upheld, including taking additional measures if circumstances warrant."

More egregious violations have happened.  In Tampa, Nielsen Audio sued personality Bubba the Love Sponge for allegedly contacting five people meter panelists directly. In Los Angeles in 2014, a Univision executive gained access to devices used to collect listening data and was fired.  In 2013 in Fresno, where they still use paper diaries, three stations were "de-listed" from the fall book after Nielsen determined someone at a particular radio company filled out diaries as if they were actual listeners.

The timing of this effort by Q100 is curious.

Q100's ratings have been suffering lately, especially since Jeff Dauler left the Bert Show in November. Dauler joined Star in March with fellow former Bert Show member Jenn Hobby .

In the April Nielsen Audio ratings book, Q100 finished in 14th place overall with a 3.4 share, its worst monthly performance in several years. That is behind the three other pop stations: Power 96.1 (5th place, 5 share), B98.5 (6th place, 4.5 share) and Star 94 (11th place, 3.9 share).

The Bert Show remains firmly ahead of Jeff and Jenn. (Star is promoting Jeff and Jenn heavily on billboards around town.) Overall, the Bert Show had a 4.4 share vs. 3.1 for Jeff and Jenn. In the 25-54 demo, Bert was ahead 5.4 to 3.7. Among 18 to 34 year olds, the Bert Show's lead was a yawning 8.1 to 2.4.

Jeff and Jenn, in their short time on the air, have so far improved upon the numbers of their predecessors Drex, Cassiday and Tingle, who are now on in the afternoons. (Last year, Drex, Cassiday and Tingle averaged a 3.1 share among 25 to 54 year olds.)

There is a lot of change in top 40 morning radio. B98.5 recenlty added a new morning host Tad Lemire . Soon after, Power 96.1 dumped Scotty K for someone who goes by PK.

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