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Radio's Mirchi

FM stations are divided on how to measure radio listenership.

By Shamni Pande | Print Edition: July 15, 2007

In one corner you have the "day-after-recall" (DAR) system, offered by Media Research Users Council's (MRUC) Indian Listenership Track. In the other you have the good old diary-based system, launched as ram (radio audio measurement), a joint service between IMRB International and Nielsen Media Research, which will operate as an independent division of tam Media Research. Which amongst these two is the preferred mode of radio listenership? The first round it would appear has been won by ram. "We have seen an almost 100 per cent acceptance for this study," says L.V. Krishnan, CEO, tam Media Research.

But even before marketers and media fraternity can heave a sigh of relief for finally reaching some headway on this over four-year-long contentious issue between ram and DAR, Radio Mirchi, one of the country's leading fm radio stations, has fired a salvo. "It is our belief that we should not adopt the diary method of research… Diaries are collected end of week with the result that the respondent fills up most slots only once a week before they get picked up. Hence, a diary is nothing better than a 'seven-day recall'. Compared to this the current 'DAR' is better because it only goes as far back as one day," says Prashant Panday, Deputy CEO, Entertainment Network India (ENIL), which owns Radio Mirchi.

Panday goes on to say that the group believes in electronic research, the kind that tam does for TV. "That has its own problems but at least we know that it does not rely on a person having to tick every now and then. There are some exciting developments happening-mobile phone-based tracking is something that looks promising," he says.

But not all feel that way: "We believe DAR is not appropriate because radio is an accompaniment to various things-and often listeners are not really aware of what channel they are tuned to. A player high on marketing is likely to sway perception of listeners. Hence, the diary system that forces people to jot down is far more reliable. Almost 93 per cent of the countries rely on this method," says Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radio City, who has been at the forefront of championing ram.

Interestingly enough, both players in the fray for the measurement seem to be pretty open about the merits and shortcomings of their respective systems: "The DAR-based Indian Listenership Track does not allow for Reach and OTS (opportunity to see) build up, which a panel-based methodology such as diary will allow. But a lot of people have reservations about using the diary as compliance is an issue," says Sabina Solomon, General Manager, MRUC.

But even as this debate continues to rage, there is entirely a new tangent being added. According to Anil Srivatsa, coo, Radio Today: "I completely support and appreciate the ram, but our issue is that of price," which, according to him, is way too steep for smaller players. "TAM has to devise a way where users can pay as per their requirement. It cannot have one price tag for all stations," he says.

It appears that the two systems are likely to be on for some time to come. "This study does not necessarily depend on one or two members not participating and for that matter, there is room in the industry for both the studies to co-exist as each has its own merit," says Krishnan.

But the big verdict from the advertiser is already here and, maybe, someone should listen after all: "Conceptually both systems are useful. Diary has an advantage or a higher measurement frequency and, hence, will give more updated information. It will also be more sensitive to stimulus and programming changes," opines Rahul Welde, General Manager & Head (Media Services), hll.

His logic is that a single measurement system is desirable for the benefit of the industry and while the two measurement systems can certainly co-exist, "it makes sense for them to provide complementary information rather than the same metrics. As it is, there is huge under-investment in research and then to have money spent in duplicating efforts is highly undesirable," he says.

For his part, Panday feels that a consensus will not emerge very soon: "Radio will go through the rough ride of having the wrong research methodology for a few years before the final stable state happens." Somehow, that sounds true.

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