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How to List Your Station With Nielsen for Maximum Ratings Results

Most of my columns have dealt with helping you better understand the Nielsen PPM system, yet there are hundreds of markets and thousands of stations beholden to the long-lived diary service. As we’ll discuss here, there is even a diary component that most PPM market stations should consider even if for just a few minutes.

I’ll start with a question: When was the last time you checked what you have registered as a “station name” with Nielsen for your stations? What have your competitors registered? If you don’t know how to find out and you’re a Nielsen subscriber, go to the Nielsen portal and start looking around for “Station Information”. When you’re there, you can look up any set of call letters that are registered with Nielsen including HD channels.

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Start with your own station(s). Is the information correct? Is/are your format(s) listed correctly? If so, good. 

Now let’s move on to the fun part. What have you entered for the 25 characters that you’re allowed to register with Nielsen? This is the information that a diary editor has to use when the entries aren’t clear. Most diary entries are pretty straightforward, meaning an exact frequency, station name from the 25 characters (Froggy, X, Wolf, etc.), or call letters. 

The need for the 25 characters is when a diarykeeper enters something out of the ordinary and the editor has to do some “educated guessing”. Nielsen would not call it that and it’s a fair complaint because there are set rules on how to handle these situations. 

Here are some “do’s and don’ts” around the 25 characters:

–Don’t register your exact frequency. Nielsen already knows that and you own that number in some number of counties. If you’re 102.7 in Buffalo, you won’t get credit in Albany, but you will get it in your 1% counties (we’ll cover the 1% rule at some time in the future).

–Don’t use your call letters. Again, you own those so it’s duplicative.

–Always include whatever slogan or station name you’re using.

–Do use a rounded or shortened frequency. Even if you only use 92.9 on the air, register 93.  On AM, if you’re 930, register “93”. There are some rules around rounding (pardon the pun).  For example, an FM frequency ending in .1 or .3 can only round down. A frequency ending in .7 or .9 can only round up. If your frequency ends in .5, you can choose, but you are allowed just one number.

–Some formats will work in your station name. Examples are Classic Rock, Country, Top 40, Alternative, Hip Hop, etc. If memory serves, something generic like “News” doesn’t work.

–Don’t enter any talent names. Nielsen won’t work with them. Many years ago, you could list all of your talent but Arbitron ended that when it became too cumbersome to manage.

–Grammar doesn’t count and you don’t need spaces. Use all 25 characters if you have a use for them.

–You can change the entries as often as you want. If you run Christmas music, change your station name to put in the word “Christmas” at the proper time of the year and then change it back after January 1. 

–If you’re on a translator, make sure the translator is registered with Nielsen

I mentioned that PPM stations should do the same thing, which may seem counterintuitive as each station has a unique code so the diary entry issues don’t exist. However, the odds are good that your stations carry network spots and may get the occasional diary entry outside their home metro. That diary listening won’t do much for your bonus, but it will help your network in RADAR, the network ratings product and so you’re helping your network commitments by making sure the entry is correct. It will take just a few minutes and you may not have to bother again for years to come.

Next, check what your competitors have registered. Again, you can see every combination of call letters and band in the US and some of Canada and Mexico as well. Are your competitors using accurate data? Is there something you might object to? If so, you can take the issue to Nielsen.

If you want to change your station name with Nielsen, how do you accomplish it? The easiest way is to email them at [email protected]. If that doesn’t work, get in touch with your Nielsen rep who can make sure your changes get to the right person. 

This is an easy task that won’t require very much of your valuable time. Assuming you’re not planning to change a format, this is a “set it and forget it” task. Speaking of format changes, if you’re in a diary market and you’re making a change, give Nielsen a heads-up in advance.  They’re very good about keeping things quiet, but informing Nielsen early allows them to update their diary edit system which makes sure you get all the credit your deserve.

Let’s meet again next week.

Dr. Ed Cohen
Dr. Ed Cohen
One of the radio industry’s most respected researchers, Dr. Ed Cohen writes a weekly business column, heavily focused on ratings research for Barrett Media. His career experiences include serving as VP of Ratings and Research at Cumulus Media, occupying the role of VP of Measurement Innovation at Nielsen Audio, and its predecessor Arbitron. While with Arbitron, Cohen spent five years as the company's President of Research Policy and Communication, and eight years as VP of Domestic Radio Research. Dr. Ed has also held the title of Vice President of Research for iHeartMedia/Clear Channel, and held research positions for the National Association of Broadcasters and Birch/Scarborough Research. He enjoys hearing your thoughts so please feel free to reach him at [email protected].

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