What figure is the most accurate in tracking a station’s listenership?
Radio listenership is tracked through what is called an AQH figure or Average Quarter-Hour figure. This number is based on the average number of people listening to a radio station for five minutes during any given 15-minute period. Cume figures include the person switching from station to station, so AQH figures are a more accurate gauge of listeners to a station, more likely to hear content that the person going through the channels. Further, it’s important to differentiate the AQH for dayparts to account for increases in station listenership during high volume hours, like morning drive.
The best place to get listenership, or AQH, figures is from an independent source such as Arbitron. They gather the information in much the same way as Nielsen gathers their TV viewer figures by having a pool of people who track the stations they listen to over the course of the day and then provide this information to Arbitron to gauge the popularity of stations via these “diaries.”
The last place to go to retrieve listenership data is from the stations themselves, however. Station personnel provide data that is not verified against an objective standards, so may inflate the listenership of their station. It’s akin to asking the fisherman how big the one that got away was.