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A Step-By-Step Guide to Analyzing Nielsen Trends on a Quarter-Hour Basis

If you read last week’s column, you know how to use the Nielsen PPM Analysis Tool to look at individual days in the survey month. It’s worth taking time each month to see how your stations as well as your competitors are doing each day. Are you seeing any patterns in the data?

Now let’s drill down even deeper. Again, one of the goals of the PPM system was to let you see discrete days and times and have some confidence in the data because the full panel would be there. In other words, a sample size that limits some of the crazy wobbles we get in the diary service. That has prevented PPM from having some crazy wobbles as well, but for the purposes of this column, let’s set that issue aside.

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To start, fire up AT. Much like the day-by-day data, you’ll choose Trends, even if that doesn’t seem all that logical. Last week, I showed you that selecting the drop-down box next to the survey would give you the option to choose “day” which shows all the individual days within the daypart. 

Now, go to the “Time Period” option and click on the drop-down box next to the daypart.  You’ll see options for “block”, “hourly”, “half-hour” and “quarter-hour”. While I’m going to use the “quarter-hour” option here, you can also use this option to look at individual hours or half hours. Click on the “quarter-hour” option and you’re ready to go.

A warning for you: If you choose a broader daypart such as Monday-Friday, 6AM-7PM or God forbid, total week, AT will spit out a lot of data. That first daypart has 52 different quarter hours (13 hours times four) and if you’re looking at the survey month, you have 20 days. Let’s say you choose four stations to review. 20x4x52 is too much data for you to review at one time.

The best use of the quarter-hour option (or even the hour or half hour) is reviewing something major that happened. For a news/talk station, how did your station perform when Trump’s conviction was announced? Perhaps you had a big-name interview on your air that you promoted heavily? Was there a major local news story that occurred in your market that you covered extensively?

For a sports station with play-by-play, how well does each team perform? When I first joined Cumulus, I reviewed an entire season of the Golden State Warriors on KNBR. It didn’t matter who the opponent was because the best-performing games were the ones when the team went East. A 7 PM ET start time was 4 PM in California meaning more audience as the games were on during afternoon drive. For example, Golden State against a not-so-good team like Orlando or Charlotte on the road would pull far more audience than say, a Lakers game on a weekend.  How did the ratings look when a coach or manager was hired or fired? 

For any format, how does your morning show perform on a quarter-hour-by-quarter-hour basis? Are there obvious peaks and if so, what is the talent doing? When are the weak times?  Those will likely correlate with stop sets and there’s not much you can do but look closely.  However, if you have a stop set immediately after the best performing time of the morning, maybe you should move it.

The “hourly” option is useful when you have programming that doesn’t match specific dayparts. Most public stations have actual “programs” versus daypart shifts. Which hours perform best and yes, I know the answer will be Morning Edition and All Things Considered, but even those programs will have stronger and weaker hours. 

As always, I also recommend that you select the PUMM option along with your other estimates (persons, share, cume, etc.). Is one of your stronger quarter hours up against less available audience? If so, you might want to consider moving the content to a time when more listeners are available if that’s possible.

We all know that one Nielsen data point does not constitute a trend. While the quarter-hour option in AT offers the opportunity to drill down into the data, you probably need to look at a few months or more of data to discern trends that may motivate you to consider changes. 

Nonetheless, it makes sense to analyze your stations and your competition at this level because every quarter hour matters.

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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