<div id="hs_cos_wrapper_module_1567090347549224_" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_widget hs_cos_wrapper_type_inline_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="widget" data-hs-cos-type="inline_text" data-hs-cos-field="page_title">Blogs</div>
Our Privacy Policy is changing to provide details about information we collect, how we use it, who we share it with, and to give you more information about your rights and choices. By continuing to use our services, you acknowledge that you understand and accept our updated Privacy Policy, available here.

Understanding Changes Nielsen is making in Local Audience Measurement

Written by: Shaunagh Guinness | August 28, 2019

Ch-ch-changes in Nielsen’s Local Audio and Television Measurement

David Bowie’s song Changes could be the anthem for Nielsen with all the changes they are making to improve their audience measurement for both local Audio listening and Television viewership.  Nielsen has throughout its history made changes to its measurement services when needed; however, the amount of time from concept to implementation in the past has been lengthy.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Nielsen was able to test and verify the proposed changes were having a positive impact on its rating service, while also giving broadcasters and the advertising community time to adapt to the changes being made.  Prior to two years ago, these are some of the major changes Nielsen implemented in its local TV measurement:


  • Set-meters to collect household viewing that provided timelier HH viewing data than the prior diary measurement in these markets (New York in 1959, Los Angeles in 1970, Chicago in 1976 and the final markets in 2002)
  • Local People Meters (LPM) in large markets to collect both HH and individual viewing data (2002-2010)
  • Expanded the television universe to include time-shifted viewing from digital video recording devices (2010)
  • Introduction of a fourth local TV measurement type – Code Readers in select markets that provides timelier HH viewing data than the diary (2015)
  • Obtaining demographic data via Viewer Assignment for Set-Meter and Code Reader markets instead of via the diary (2016)


We have become an on-the-go society and we want to watch and/or listen to what we want when we want.   No longer are we living exclusively in an appointment viewing or listening world with the exception possibly being local news or live sports.  Even with live sports, a consumer can listen to the game on the radio, stream it through an app or catch it on the television.  The options for people viewing video and consuming audio are numerous and pose a challenge for all audience measurement companies.  Nielsen has been trying to update their measurement services to capture as much of the video and audio consumption as possible.  We have seen Nielsen make announcement after announcement within the past couple of years regarding changes they planned to make to further improve their local Television and Audio measurement services as well as try to evolve their digital measurement services.  This is the first change that Nielsen would make with their Audio measurement service since purchasing it from Arbitron in 2013.  The one thing that stood out from all their announcements was the time frame from concept to implementation was being dramatically shortened from prior updates.  What are possible causes for the change?  It was really three things: (1) advancement of technology, (2) evolution of consumer’s media consumption and (3) increased competition for audience measurement. ____________________________________________________________________

” Competition in business is a blessing, for without it, we wouldn’t be motivated to improve.”     
– Nabil N Jamal


Competition does drive innovation and improvement as seen by the announcements that Nielsen has made within the past couple of years.  Nielsen has outlined plans to change measurement and currency in both its local television and audio measurement services.


  • Introduction of the Nano-Meter in Code Reader markets. Nano-meter captures HH viewing via audible codes and the ability to capture internet connected viewing.  In the Code Reader markets, the Nano-meter will act like a Set-Meter monitoring device with enhanced capabilities that include better understanding of when the television set is on/off, improved ability to capture viewing with multiple microphones to detect audible codes, ensure that the HH viewing data is successfully transmitted and a better panelist experience. (Starting roll-out in April 2019)

  • Retirement of diary for measurement of HH TV viewing and collection of demographic information in 137 markets to be replaced by Return Path Data+ measurement. RPD+ utilizes HH viewing from partner cable and satellite TV providers (Dish, DirecTV, Charter legacy).  Plus Nielsen added Code Readers in these markets to capture Over-the-Air (OTA) viewing that cannot be captured by the RPD data since these are households that are considered cord-cutters or cord-nevers.  Local Television now has 12 months of data for all measured markets.  (July 2018)

  • Continuous Diary Measurement (CDM) for Audio – this is the first currency change that Nielsen made with its Audio service. Nielsen converted 46 audio markets that has currency released 4x per year to 12x per year.  These markets were already being measured throughout the year with its quarterly surveys and interim reports.  Nielsen converted the 8 interim surveys (2 between each quarterly survey) into currency to create 12 rolling 3-month average surveys in these markets.  (July 2019)



  • Incorporating PPM audience data into Local TV measurement. PPM measurement will be included in 44 LPM and set-meter markets to increase sample size and to capture out-of-home viewing for the 1st  The PPM device was originally created to capture all types of audible media but had previously been used only for audio measurement until now.  PPM will capture both audio and video signals. (October 2019)

  • Adding Return-Path-Data (RPD) data to the remaining set-meter markets (not implementing PPM data) and 15 Code Reader markets RPD data will increase sample size in these markets and provide a more complete viewing footprint. (October 2019)

  • Increasing the RPD partners to include Comcast’s national footprint. (2020)


"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts” – Arnold Bennett


As much as the industry pushes for better and more inclusive measurement, it takes time for all parties to adapt once the changes become currency - typically up to a year.  Majority of the changes in currency creates an “Apple to Orange” scenario that makes direct comparisons illogical, which creates a lot of uncertainty.  Frequent questions that my colleagues have been hearing are ‘How do I project ratings for the future?’ or ‘What can I use to perform a post-campaign analysis?’  Communication is key between broadcasters and the advertiser community to make sure that all sides understand what is feasible and what is not.    Why a year?   Until we have a full year of the new currency on the books, these types of questions will continue to pop up.  Nielsen’s fast and furious pace of announced measurement changes have seen numerous pauses and restarts, which has contributed to the confusion.  One thing that is certain - audience measurement needs to continue to evolve to effectively capture consumer’s ever-changing media consumption.

Shaunagh Guinness is the Senior Vice President of Station Solutions, the team responsible for driving positioning solutions for Katz Media Group’s 4000+ Radio and TV station partners nationwide.