The big news in television is that Nielsen is finally including 18-24 college students who live away from home in their surveys. Not surprisingly, the ratings results are changing. The winners? Networks and programs aimed at this demographic. It's everything from "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ugly Betty" on ABC, to better numbers for youth-oriented programming like "Adult Swim," Vh-1, Comedy Central, and MTV. Not surprisingly, late night viewing has increased, too, helping everything from Leno and Letterman to "Saturday Night Live."
Segue over to radio, where the "Cell Phone Only" struggle goes on. Our recently released Tech Poll III shows that among the entire Rock sample, those with only a cell phone have increased from 17%-21%-23% since we've done the study. Of course, these consumers are not sampled by Arbitron for reasons ranging from expense to degree of difficulty.
But among younger listeners and Alternative radio, the problem is exacerbated. Our study shows that half of 18-29 year-olds fall into this group. For Alternative, four of every ten listeners only have a cell phone, thus negating their participation in the diary methodology.
But until then, we can only look across the aisle at television to see the results of better sample inclusion of this hard-to-reach demographic. It's a game changer, it will influence ad dollars, and with it, more targeted programming to 18-24s.
At this crossroads for our radio, everyone needs a chance to participate - especially young listeners who continue to move away from our medium with each passing year. Broadcasters need the assurance these listeners will be counted. If not, radio's long-term future is on shaky ground.