Online Radio Ratings Return

After dropping its Internet radio ratings service in February, traditional radio measurement firm Arbitron is back online with a new methodology, having partnered with comScore Media Metrix to create the service.

The new offering, called comScore Arbitron Online Radio Ratings, taps comScore’s global consumer panel for a representative group of 200,000 U.S. Internet users. Previously, Arbitron had measured radio audiences by installing monitoring software on clients’ servers, a solution it said wasn’t cost-effective or scalable.

The companies will provide customers with average quarter hour and cume audience estimates for 38 demographic segments and 15 standard broadcast dayparts. (Average quarter hour is the average number of persons listening to a station for at least five minutes during a 15-minute period, while cume is the cumulative unduplicated total audience.) The idea is to create a service that allows traditional radio media planners and buyers to measure online media using the criteria they’re accustomed to using.

“What we’re trying to do here is provide audience measurement,” said Bill Rose, VP of marketing for U.S. media services at Arbitron. “A planner can say, ‘this compares to our other choices’ and they can understand what they’re looking at.”

ComScore EVP of agency development Lynn Bolger said it was a very natural union. “It was driven by marketplace need, I think,” she said. “There’s plenty of online radio content. There are a number of suppliers of that content looking to sell advertising. There was a need for a currency.”

The companies have already signed the online radio units of the major portals — Yahoo’s LAUNCHcast, America Online’s AOL Radio Network, and Microsoft’s MSN Radio and Windowsmedia.com — as charter subscribers. All of these are represented by Ronning Lipset Radio, a sales firm started by online radio veterans Eric Ronning and Andy Lipset last year.

“The growth potential is there and we see it going further,” Ronning told ClickZ News. “For the past year we’ve been getting that out to market, getting that known. One of the big missing pieces was, how do you do the metrics? How do you do a like-to-like comparison to what they’re doing offline? The answer to that was Arbitron.”

Ronning said traditional media buyers are interested in the comparative lack of clutter online radio offers, and they’re eager to reach people during the workday. “We’re only dealing with traditional radio people,” he said. “We’re not spending one minute with the online groups.”

Online radio has had its share of ups and downs, some of those downs related to the establishment of licensing rates for online radio, which require commercial and non-commercial Webcasters to pay a per-stream fee for every song played. The regulation squelched the online radio ambitions of many smaller players, but allowed larger ones like Yahoo, AOL and MSN to continue their growth.

In January, Arbitron and Edison Media Research found that the monthly Internet radio audience consisted of about 38 million Americans, and the weekly audience was 19 million.

Arbitron and comScore expect to release data from their new radio ratings service on a monthly basis, beginning next week.

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