Radio Should Seek out the Best Methods for Listening Research. (Opinion)

Article excerpt

Kelvin MacKenzie has never been an easy bedfellow. Throughout his career, the chairman and chief executive of The Wireless Group has kicked and screamed and generally caused trouble.

In recent years his campaign against the BBC has been so self-interested and self-destructive that the former Sun editor became almost a parody of himself.

And yet in the row over the recording wristwatches and the radio ratings MacKenzie may be onto something.

It was at the very least enterprising to get Carat and market research group GfK involved in a project to test wristwatches that record actual listening, which are already used in Switzerland.

MacKenzie has long been convinced that the listening figures for talkSPORT are under-represented by the current system, which is based on recording listening habits in diaries. People tend to recall longer-established stations, the argument goes. This might favour better known stations such as the BBC's Five Live.

If MacKenzie had conducted the research himself and it had proved that talkSPORT was the biggest radio station in the universe, eyes would undoubtedly have started rolling again. The outcome was much more complex than that for the established players.

The wristwatches showed that in the Star FM coverage area of Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead, people listened to many more stations than expected and for shorter periods of time. So reach was up dramatically and listening hours equally sharply down with speech standing up particularly well against music. …