Media Perspective: Rajar cannot again fall behind the pace of change in media

"Rajar is to undertake an industry-wide review of the future direction of radio audience research," the radio measurement body's press release reads.

It might have been dated from any month and year in the past decade, because Rajar has seemingly been constantly reviewing its survey since 1999. Yet the announcement really was issued in the final week of April 2008.

The review is linked to Rajar's decision, taken by its radio industry board members, to scrap its investment in personal meter testing (into which it has painstakingly poured £3.5 million since 2001) in favour of a new online digital survey.

Rajar argues that it needs a new measurement system for a new radio age, encompassing developments in mobile technology, podcasting and time-shifted listening. Fair enough, and if the people meters tested didn't prove up to the job, then they should be kicked into the long grass. It's just a shame that it took seven years to reach this decision, including a whole year of joint research alongside Barb.

That's the problem with the research business: it so often moves at tortoise-like rates, inevitably struggling to maintain pace with change in the media industry. The danger is that now we're on the brink of yet another consultation, it will be an age before the new online listener diaries are introduced.

The online diary will be tested from July 2008, but it will be interesting to see if Rajar is in any way ready to intro- duce it fully ahead of the next Rajar contract, which will be issued in 2009. Radio does deserve some credit for investing proportionally more than any other medium in its measurement system, but, a few improvements to the paper diary aside, it has been crushingly slow to adapt to evolving technology and listening habits. This must now change and online diaries seem like a sensible solution that could provide much more detailed coverage of a panel's listening.

One point in Rajar's favour is that it has brought in Morag Blazey, the former chief executive of PHD and a massive fan of the medium (also said to have been in the running at one point for the RadioCentre chief executive job landed by Andrew Harrison), to conduct the review of audience research. More opinionated and decisive than most, Blazey has the credentials to gauge industry reaction swiftly and react to it even more swiftly. She's not some crusty old committee man with a self-interest in dragging this one out for years.

That said, achieving industry consensus on the issues of reporting times and the scope of the survey won't be easy. For what it's worth, here's two tips: make it bigger and more frequent. Now that shouldn't take too long, should it?

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