Arbitron ratings are radio listener data collected by the media research firm Arbitron. Random samples of the population in the United States are chosen to participate in the studies to chart who is listening to which stations and at what times. Each participating household is asked to log which stations they were listening to between 6AM and midnight in a journal which is submitted to analysts on a weekly basis. Each participant is given three U.S. Dollars for each journal. A faster and more accurate form of measurement is being introduced where the participant will wear a portable device similar to cell phone or pager that will electronically record the individual’s listening behavior each day for months.
The data is processed and put into reports that detail, among other things, the number of unique listeners a station has within a period, the average number of people listening every 15 minutes, and the demographic breakdown of listeners by market. Arbitron publishes the results primarily in four books; one for each ratings period or season. There are also monthly “mid-term” results available.
The data is used by radio stations, radio networks, online broadcasters and advertisers. Arbitron ratings are used in the radio industry much like Nielson ratings are used in the television industry (Nielson ratings are statistics on viewership collected by a box installed in television sets in selected homes). Broadcasters can demand more money for advertising during programs that have a larger audience since the advertiser will be able to reach more people. And an advertiser that wants to target a specific demographic can do so by sponsoring a show that has more listeners within their desired age/race/gender/ethnicity/income level, etc.
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