Hello it is I, maestro. I trust you’ve missed me?
Thyne has been preoccupado by the success of our sports team to be bothered with terrestrial squabbles. As it turns out, the radio ratings race is not quite as interesting when you don’t have one host threatening another or claiming that a former colleague is creating fake Twitter accounts to undermine him.
Indeed, the battles have still raged on. I felt not the need to step down from thy chair (throne?) and concern myself with the challengers rummaging though the fields. The maestro only concerns himself with the greater war.
But last week, my interest was piqued upon the news that Jon Marks and Ike Reese had “dethroned” Mike Missanelli. What’s this? No. Can’t be. However, that’s what Rob Tornoe reported on Philly.com:
Years ago, Jon Marks used to work for Mike Missanelli. Now he’s topping him in the ratings.
Marks and his 94.1 WIP co-host, former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese, defeated 97.5 The Fanatic’s longtime ratings champ in the 2018 winter ratings book, which uses data gathered from January through March to measure popularity.
I won’t purport to know his source, but I’d bet my gold tote that it’s someone with a very vested interest over in WIP. I’ve been on the receiving end of these ratings leaks from people on both sides of the aisle (you haven’t lived until Josh Innes cold calls you with his), and I tend to find there are multiple ways to skin the cat. Particularly with regard to the streaming number. And it’s with the streaming number that maestro finds great fault with this nonsense.
Indeed, WIP had a great quarter, the winter ratings book, which runs from January to March or thereabouts. Even when you combine the stream, with which 97.5 and its younger audience almost always bests WIP in Nielsen estimates, WIP won in mornings, mid-days, and overall among men 25-54, which is the most important demographic for sports talk radio. But as you can see, the headline and great chest-pound opportunity came from Marks and Reese beating Missanelli:
But when you combine Nielsen’s measured streaming estimate, we get a different story. Missanelli walks away with a 9.4 (8.0 OTA and 1.4 on the stream), whereas WIP combines for a 9.1. Still impressively close, but hardly “dethroning” someone.
To be fair, Tornoe asked both 97.5 program director Eric Johnson and WIP program director Spike Eskin about this disparity, and they offered up markedly different responses.
“They surely do win when you take the stream out of it, but in 2018, you can’t take the stream out of it,” Johnson said. “You write what you want to write, but I’m still saying Mike Missanelli beat WIP.”
“That’s not me dismissing the importance of the stream. What I’m dismissing is the notion that you would measure it using a radio rating,” Eskin said. “I’m very confident if you were to compare our actual streaming numbers to our competition in the afternoon, it would show that we have a clear advantage.”
This is spin, plain and simple.
Here’s how the streaming numbers are measured by Nielsen.
Nielsen participants get boxes that listen for a specific tone, or signal, embedded within audio. This data is extrapolated to form an estimate for the entire listening audience. One would think that tone would be the same for a station regardless of the medium. Nielsen, however, in their quest to control things, stipulates that a station must air an exact simulcast (commercials and all) if it wants to count its stream and its OTA number together. If there is not an exact simulcast, and stations run different commercials online and sell it as a different ad product, then the audio must contain different signals and be counted separately. That doesn’t change the fact that those “separate” stations are still being measured in the exact same sample, therefore allowing those two numbers to be added together to get one true measure. It may all be bullshit, but it’s the same bullshit.
It’s archaic and inaccurate. The sample size is comically small. It’s even more absurd when it comes to streaming. Estimates aren’t needed. Streaming listens can be measured directly. The same way websites have Google Analytics embedded which measure exactly visitors and page views, radio stations can see their actual streaming numbers– they don’t need someone to estimate them using a system developed before the Great Depression. Yes, it would be good to have an agreed upon set of metrics, a standard upon which all interested parties adopt, but there is simply not the need for a third-party estimate.
And yet, that’s still what the industry relies on, in part because Nielsen has forced itself upon media outlets in an attempt at self-preservation. That’s why they’ve made radical changes to the way the measure everything, from TV, to online, to radio, somehow – for now at least – convincing stations and advertisers that their dark matter numbers are more accurate than, you know, the actual numbers. Alas. But they’re what WIP – er, Philly.com – is citing to declare a big win over Missanelli, while conveniently leaving out the streaming portion because it doesn’t fit the narrative.
I’m sure WIP’s actual streaming numbers are substantial, though I would still be shocked to learn that they’re higher than 97.5’s. The latter has a younger audience and almost always comes in higher in Nielsen’s admittedly faulty estimates.
Many stations, like WMMR and WMGK, already combine their OTA and streaming number – this is called total line reporting – because they air identical simulcasts. 97.5 and WIP, however, don’t, because they sell their streams as a separate ad package and thus have different commercials, which means the ratings for their OTA broadcast and stream have to be separated. But that doesn’t mean that for the purposes of arbitrary publicity you can’t simply add them together, and in doing so, Mike Missanelli beats Marks and Reese.
It’s close, for sure. And that’s not to take anything from WIP, who had a massive quarter win almost across the board in other time slots, among other demographics, and overall. But the notion that they dethroned Missanelli is misleading. It also doesn’t hurt that there is a massive carry-over effect with radios being tuned to Eagles games in January. That’s difficult to measure, but it certainly works in their favor. Let’s see what these numbers looks like in the spring, with Sixers playoff games airing on 97.5. BATTLE RETURN: