Audience Ratings: Radio, Television, and Cable

By Hugh Malcolm Beville Jr. | Go to book overview
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funding from the Markle Foundation and financial support from major cable interests. Its failure in 1986 to gain commercial support for a continuing syndicated service suggests a bleak future for this form of qualitative measurement.

For such syndicated surveys to be useful, two major hurdles must be overcome. The first is the availability of population figures for newly dimensioned categories, because program nonviewers as well as viewers must be accounted for. The strength of demographics is the availability of an enormous U.S. Census base of data by geography. Services such as PRIZM and Cluster Plus, which build on census figures, can be readily linked to other market and media data. A second and more important requirement is that the media planners at agencies and advertisers use the qualitative service data as an input requirement for buying. Negotiating spot and network buys is a complex and costly operation at the agency level. 20 To simplify the process, the buyers have specific guides for each account. If the qualitative services ratings are slated to be used in buying, the stations and networks will rush to supply them. Otherwise the service's effectiveness in the advertising marketplace is marginal at best, and significant industry support is highly questionable.

Proceedings of the 1980 Technical Conference on Qualitative Television Ratings--Final Report. Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Washington, D.C., 1980, p. 6.
Dr. Paul F. Lazarsfeld, eminent sociologist, was perhaps first to recognize that detailed rating analysis could produce valuable qualitative insights. When Lazarsfeld headed the Princeton Radio Project in 1938, he encouraged the author to pursue such an inquiry, the results of which were published in 1939 by the Office of Radio Research, Princeton University, as "Social Stratification of the Radio Audience." The conclusions appeared in the Public Opinion Quarterly, June 1940, under the title, "The ABCD's of Radio Audiences," Vol. 4, No. 2, p. 195. Another distinguished sociologist, Dr. Samuel Stauffer, likewise expressed interest in the potential of ratings data for scholarly analysis.
Focus on the MRI Advantage, Mediamark Research, Inc., Plan for 1982 Reports, p. 1.
PRIZM, Geodemographic Market Segmentation and Targeting, Claritas Corp., 1982, p. 3.
Steven Leavitt, president, Marketing Evaluations, telephone interview


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