Nielsen tunes China

Audience tracker to measure radio market

SHANGHAI — Nielsen Media Research is set to launch its Radio Audience Measurement Service in China, the second-largest radio market after the U.S.

The country has more than 1,000 radio stations, and nearly half of the 1.3 billion population tunes in at least once a week.

What’s more, the market is expanding. In Shanghai, radio reaches 93% of the city population each week — on par with figures from other developed cities such as Sydney and Singapore. And where the showcase East Coast city goes, the rest of China should follow.

NMR began tracking radio listenership in 32 cities in February and plans to add three more by year’s end.

Diary-based surveys will take place four times a year, with 20,000 diaries placed each time, making this one of the biggest diary surveys in the world, according to Nielsen.

“In such a competitive advertising market, people want proof of performance, which is why ratings are so important,” commented Nielsen Asia Pacific exec director Mike Grunert.

The Chinese ad market has seen tremendous growth over the past five years.

First-quarter figures for 2004 suggest that the rise is continuing, with total ad revenue at 61 billion yuan ($7.4 billion), up 44% from a year earlier. Of that number, over $6 billion is for television. NMR estimates that radio takes only some 2% of ad spend in China, compared with 8%-12% in most developed radio markets.

However, new rules introduced in January limiting the amount and type of TV advertising in peak hours are already pushing marketers to consider other media, in particular radio and outdoor advertising.

NMR reported that it has already signed up six radio stations to the radio measurement service, and it expects more to subscribe soon.

“Nielsen has the ability to compare international markets like Singapore, Malaysia and Australia,” Grunert said. “That is something that appeals to clients.”