On an extremely foggy morning, the Mövenpick Hotel in Amsterdam was the venue for the 2011 European Radio Symposium where the great and good in radio audience research convened to hear the latest trends and developments. The international, but mainly European, audience witnessed 13 presentations – 4 from the UK, 2 from each of Norway and Denmark, and 1 from each of Canada, Holland, France, Switzerland and USA.
Not surprisingly, the prevailing themes of the presentations have been talked about in other arenas in the past, but it is always good to get up to date on matters. These comprised where radio fits in the multi-platform world, the analogue switch-off, online panels, online diaries and, of course, passive electronic meters.
I was especially interested in the Dutch update from Tom van Hulst (RAB The Netherlands) and Camiel Camps (Intomart GfK) where they described their survey’s developments in enhancing representation from ethnic minority groups; creating a Smartphone diary, and; launching a hybrid online diary and passive meter panel. The latter was especially intriguing. The plan is to keep the online diary and its quarter hour ratings, but use the Mediawatch meter to provide calibration factors to adjust the minute by minute ratings up or down within the quarter hour. I can see the value from a programme and advertising planning perspective, but the payoff will be whether the data will actually be used and the rate cards for each spot vary accordingly. But this is where the meter data comes into its own and this, along with the potential for event measurement as described by Jim Ford (Ipsos MediaCT) with MediaCell, shows that the passive technology has come a long way over recent years.
We also saw the new online diaries being used in the UK and in Denmark. Although the Dutch have had online diaries for a while now, their Internet penetration is way ahead of many other countries in Europe. Paul Kennedy of RAJAR, described how the online diary was developed and tested extensively in the UK and is now collecting audience figures for one-sixth of the sample with a view to being extended to 50% in the future. He also shared the excellent video demo of the diary with everyone.
According to James Cridland, “radio is visual” and “hybrid is the future”. This is driven by his love for internet-connected radios with colour touch-screens, which also allow you to listen to podcasts and even your own music. He strongly promoted the UK’s Radioplayer service and also gave us a perspective of where and how different platforms suit different radio station audiences, and provide new revenue streams, in various countries around the world.
At the end of the day, as the fog had finally lifted over Amsterdam, my big take out from the event is that passive electronic devices are the future of radio audience measurement. I think that statement has been true for many years, but the first time I got a sense that the future is closer than we think.