How does community radio measure listenership?
By Phil Rowledge
Posted 22 June 2015, 4.32pm edt
How do community radio stations measure their listenership? Do they get reported via RAJAR, or is there some kind of RAJAR equivalent for them? Or is it down to individual stations to commission their own research? Can the ones with internet streams tell how many people are connected at any given time?
The CR station I was on a few years back used a mix of listener surveys at events the station attended, pageviews of the website and streaming stats.
Hardly accurate, but gave an impression that someone was listening.
I was in a community radio website earlier today which includes a section inviting visitors to complete a listeners' survey. I can only assume the value of the collated data will be an indicator rather than accurate listening figures for the station!
But not very scientifically, from my experience. Online listenership is always measurable, often from outside of the station if they're using certain streaming technologies (commercial stations have fell foul of this as well), but very few will pay for RAJAR or professional market research in order to gauge the overall picture.
So stations are often creative or simply employ guesswork. Sales advertisements will often refer to the population of the coverage area. 500,000 people sounds very impressive to some local businesses, after all, but sometimes it's possible that 500 of them are listeners at a push.
Other measures I've noticed are interaction levels (the number of e-mails determining which programmes are popular, for example), the aforementioned surveys, and social media reach. None of which are very scientific.
I've heard the old cliche of "only 1% of your listeners will get in touch" too. There's definitely a belief that there's always hundreds to thousands of listeners even if there's no evidence to back it up. Stations just assume that someone is out there without finding out who, it's fantasy really.
It's difficult, though. Community radio stations operate on a shoestring as it is, so even the so-called "cheap" rates for research afforded to them are well out of budget. Plus, for the sort of businesses they're dealing with in terms of sales, there's not likely to be much calling for empirical data - if a taxi company or local shop are open to paying for radio advertising then information on broadcast area and reach often seems to be enough.
Ian, the station is 3TFM (Three Towns FM) in North Ayrshire. I sent an email to request a bandwidth increase on their online digital output. 3TFM's data rate output is too low at 48kbps stereo (MP3) causing artefacts including "lispy" dialogue.
The audio quality level of digital output should at least respect the volunteer efforts of a community radio station team!
Something that might be interesting is this correlation between TuneIn followers and RAJAR figures
Some stations in the past have used multipliers according to mail received, calls received etc.
Willie - a little trick of the trade - if they filter their audio at 15kHz (like all FM broadcasts) and reduce their audio sample rate to 32kHz then the 48k stream will sound much better - in my experience probably better than a 64k stream sampled at 44.1kHz. It's all to do with Nyquist Theorem
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