Does Nielsen really care about measuring radio in just small and medium markets? The big prize is - and always has been - measuring radio in major markets and nationwide, using meter technology. This is where they are going.
In an article on March 19th in Tom Taylor's Radio-Info, Tom said:
"What kind of electronic measurement is Nielsen thinking about, for radio?
One research-industry veteran tells me “look, the competition with Arbitron will keep everybody on their toes. But they’re not doing this just to rate 51 small markets for Cumulus and Clear Channel. And they must know that when they look at the bigger markets that have the Arbitron meter, they’re not going to be able to break in there with a diary.” He figures “they must be working on something electronic” to counter the Arbitron PPM. more...
Nielsen has had a portable media measurement device in the field for several years now. It is the "Go Meter," and has a similar technological design to Arbitron's PPM device.
Here's a photo of the Go Meter:
Nielsen could use a national rollout of the Go Meter and have the radio service subsidized by the TV service. It certainly will help economies of scale to be able to spread the cost of a national roll-out across multiple media. And, remember, Nielsen is also very interested in streaming video and audio measurement. So, they have a lot of ways to monetize the deployment of this system.
My view, radical though it may seem, is that the sticker diary program announced by Nielsen and Cumulus is a straw horse for deployment of Go Meters in the Cumulus markets in preparation for an all-out attack on Arbitron's PPM strongholds in the top markets. Nielsen has a bottom-up strategy versus Arbitron's top-down strategy.
Will this be a "slam-dunk" for Nielsen? No - because the new management team being formed at Arbitron, led by Michael Skarzynski, undoubtedly sees this coming.
This will be a tremendously interesting battle.