Thursday, February 22, 2018


Occasionally we have readers ask for more information about ratings terminology and which metrics are most important. We believe understanding ratings such as ones provided by Nielsen Audio begins with the estimated “Weekly Cumulative Persons.” 

This is referred to as the “weekly cume” or the term we use “weekly listeners.”

Cume is important because it provides the estimated number of unique individuals who spend at least five minutes listening to a particular station during a set period of time such as daily or weekly.

All businesses use metrics similar cume to measure the total number of “customers” served. In a recent blog post [link] consultant Fred Jacobs puts it this way:

"It’s one thing to look at a computer screen and see a station’s cume trend heading steadily down. It’s another to look at a stadium that’s has more empty seats that full ones. For the owner of a pro sports team, it’s a vivid reminder there may be something wrong with your business model.”

I like Fred’s “stadium” analogy. Think of “cume” as the number of seats that are filled for an event. The number of seats that are occupied is a real, knowable number. Data from Nielsen is “estimated” because they take a sample, examine the behavior and then project what they find in the sample on the whole population.

In other words, cume is a baseline number. All other ratings metrics such as “Average Quarter Hour Persons” (AQH) are derived from the estimated cume.

Spark News uses data provided by Nielsen and Radio Research Consortium (RRC), the organization that crunches Nielsen data for noncommercial radio broadcasters. We are permitted to use limited portions of ratings – weekly cume and AQH. There is much more information provided to subscribing stations. I wish we could report metrics such as the number of tune-in occurrences and the time-spent-listening for each tune-in. This information is particularly useful in our multi-platform business.

From the data available to us, we use the estimated weekly cume as our metric of choice. Commercial radio use AQH persons and share percentages to price advertising spots. For noncommercial radio, we use weekly cume because it represents individuals who may become a supporter of the station.


The January 2018 Nielsen Audio PPM ratings are being released this week. Compared with the estimated weekly listeners in January 2017, one thing is clear: One year after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, many NPR News/Talk stations have fewer listeners now than they did a year ago.

The trends we are seeing are not dire – there still are lots of listeners to public radio news. But the numbers we are seeing make me hope that NPR CEO Jarl Mohn can get his mojo rising again.

There is no decline one-year later at WNYC-FM. Their weekly cume rose to almost historic levels.

This is the first time in recent memory that WFUV had more estimated weekly listeners than WBGO.   

My friends in Ossining tell me that ’FUV sounds terrific.

Educational Media Foundation’s (EMF) KKLQ has settled into its own new normal. The current number of weekly listeners to the K-Love’s flagship at 100.3 FM is about a fourth of the weekly listeners than its predecessor The Sound had. 

Also the legendary Pirate Radio was on 100.3 and had weekly cume in the low millions. 

KKLQ’s January 2018 showing provides perspective about the size of the Christian Contemporary audience.

Do you see what I mean about key NPR News/Talk stations losing weekly listeners?   

Jazz/Blues WDCB is the kind of station that has for decades made Chicago a great radio city.

As David Byrne said: “Same as it ever was…”

KKXT PD Amy Miller is probably smiling today. The Republic of Music is rising.

KXNG [link] has one of the most adventurous music playlists I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know there are so many Christian heavy metal and rap artists. Christian Rock has always seemed like oxymoron to me.


1 comment:

  1. Correction on KYDA: They air the Air1 service not K-Love. They went with Air1 because of heritage Classic Top 40 KLUV and their use of the K-Love moniker or in their case K-Luv. Their heritage goes back to 1981, about one year since the sign of of what would be K-Love in fall of 1982 as KCLB in Santa Rosa, CA.