Radio: Ando Could Be the New Arbitron

If you’ve been watching the dust up over Ando Media’s new ratings rules for online streaming, you can see some radio people are getting themselves all worked up needlessly.

Ando has done a few positive things in spite of the fact that some radio people are getting upset and have forced them to push back a bit.

The radio industry hates change.

On top of that, radio executives are used to dictating how things are going to be. No one dictates to them.

That’s why the industry has missed the Internet revolution and is ready to miss the even more important smart phone evolution and why it prefers to judge radio listening on its own terms – not that which advertisers and publishers may demand.

Ando could be a force to reckon with in the future.

Like Arbitron, which has a monopoly on radio ratings, Ando has a monopoly on streaming metrics.

Radio loves monopolies – just look at the major consolidators.

There is also a perfect storm brewing in which I believe a lot of radio companies and individual stations will cut out audience ratings and try to go with something else.

Traditional wisdom suggests Nielsen ratings.

But the radio industry isn’t good at supporting alternative rating services – just check the history of underwriting competition to Arbitron over the past three plus decades. Nielsen doesn’t know it yet but it is likely to die on the vine like its predecessors in spite of a flirtation with a few Clear Channel and Cumulus stations.

Ando, on the other hand, could offer relatively inexpensive metrics at a time when the only thing owners will invest in is cutting back expenses.

Take a look at the Ando package.

Ando has dropped average quarter hour and cume as radio as come to know it in Arbitron parlance. Instead, it has substituted three new benchmarks:

1. Average Active Sessions (the average number of streams of one minute or more that are active within a time period).

2. Session Starts (number of streams of one minute or more started within a time period

3. Average Time Spent Listening (average number of hours for each session lasting more than one minute within a time period).

Plus, Arbitron’s old five-minute listening rule to earn quarter hour credit is only one minute at Ando. No doubt that helps webcasters and mobile device listening but AQH and cume is not the best way to measure online streaming.

So with Ando, cume as we know it is dead because it measure IP addresses rather than listeners and reducing the five-minute mandate to win a quarter hour to only one-minute games the Ando system toward online streaming which takes advantage of the streamers short attention span.

There is hypocrisy in the criticism of Ando.

For example, so-called Reporting Sessions are Ando's version of what radio calls cume using Arbitron's Portable People Meter – that is, drive-by listening. The radio industry has no problem trying to rig the PPM technology to confuse hearing with listening so I guess it is only fair that the online ratings being offered by Ando skew in favor of streamers.

Two monopolies fighting each other – making up their own rules and acting unilaterally. The radio industry sure doesn’t like it when Ando does it to them but Arbitron has been pandering to radio’s reluctance to join the 21st century for a long time.

Confusing hearing for listening?

Now you have two choices when considering online media.

In the end, some of these changes are good for radio. There is no reason to cling to the past and demand the five-minute rule be maintained.

No reason to insist that cume means something more than it was.

Ando is shrewdly seeking accreditation from Media Ratings Council and should they receive it there will be a whole lotta shakin’ going’ on – to quote Jerry Lee Lewis.

But wait.

Advertisers are the last people to actually demand meaningful audience ratings. Their agencies have been buying campaigns on flawed research for decades now.

In all of this it is important to note that while both Arbitron and Ando get ready to battle, smart broadcasters will look even further ahead to the real holy grail – listener loyalty.

You can have your two million listeners (or hearers) but advertisers will take a smaller more active group of loyal fans.

There may be a lot of ways to measure this and then again, measurement may not be so necessary.

There – I’ve said it.

Soon I will share with you what a major advertiser did when they skipped the middleman and went directly to the consumer.

This is the real heart of the issue.

Radio stations using Arbitron and online streamers through the new Ando service may like their chances but I believe advertisers increasingly will do it themselves. That’s one reason I’m going devote time to this issue at my upcoming Media Solutions Lab.

And, by the way, if I am seeing this development accurately, there are a lot of underemployed or unemployed radio people who will be starting careers to help advertisers take their messages directly to consumers through technology, programming content and social networking.

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