Top 40 radio ratings involved many players for the generations that "lived and died" (on the radio) by Hooper, Pulse and others — but Arbitron® looms largest as the "book" that validated the "ratings = revenues" formula.

Arbitron creates radio audience reports using written responses from carefully selected respondents. The written reports (diaries) are the recollections, most likely, of those who choose to return their diaries. From these, the total number of listeners (CUME) is estimated, and the total "quarter hours" of listening time (5 minutes in any quarter hour) is computed. Listenership to each station is represented as a percentage of total listening (SHARE).

Rankings for stations are based on SHARE of the total time spent listening in the surveyed area. Remember, it's not the number of people listening - it's the station that claims the most time spent listening.

Unlike radio, Internet audio services don't have to "estimate" the number of listeners or rely upon the recall of randomly selected survey participants. Every Real Audio file that is streamed by the server is recorded in the server logs. If the RA player is configured to report, the Time Spent Streaming is also recorded. Our overall response and reporting rate on this site is a much higher response rate than that of the physical world of diaries, because the computer does it, not a pencil.

The TIME SPENT LISTENING reports, and the FAB 40 rankings on this site demonstrate the use of Share of Total Listening to rank audio files. True, these files are selected from an ever-growing number of choices, on demand. There are a limited number of signals in any Arbitron report, but there are new "stations" on this site every week.

As for the existing methods used to rate and evaluate the value of radio time - how believable are reports requiring pencil, paper and postage in an age when actual listening can be quietly and unobtrusively recorded?

Your COMMENTS are invited.

©1997,1999 Richard W. Irwin, 2001 REELRADIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved.