The Nielsen company conducts ratings surveys for radio and television programming. (NonDoc)

The Nielsen company is likely the best-known media ratings entity in America. It solicits people to record their programming preferences in a one-week diary and return it (postage paid), for which effort aforesaid people are given a “token” of Nielsen’s appreciation.

Many years ago, I spent a week recording in a diary my television viewing. At that time, the “token” was four brand-new $1 bills. As I recall, the dollar bought more then than it does now; so, the time it took to complete the diary seemed commensurate with the value of the “token.”

Recently, I received a letter from Nielsen telling me I had been selected to participate in a survey for radio, for goodness sake. The letter contained a single brand-new $1 bill. It also contained a telephone number to call if I had questions or concerns. I had a concern, so I called the number, only to learn that all representatives were busy with other callers. So, as instructed, I recorded a message and went on my merry way.

The message I left was this: I don’t listen to the radio. Period. Do you want your dollar back?

That evening, I received a call from a very pleasant Nielsen employee who told me I could keep the dollar and asked me to participate in her campaign’s survey despite the fact that I don’t listen to the radio. If I agreed, they would send me a “Radio Ratings Diary” and another “token” of their appreciation.

Frankly, I couldn’t see the point of the exercise, but she was so pleasant that I couldn’t help myself. I agreed.

Excuse me, ma’am, but is that ‘classic rock’?

A few days after that, the “diary” arrived in a small box, together with a letter and, of course, the “token,” which was another $1 bill.

Egad! What could this mean? Four bucks for television and only two bucks for radio? Could the Nielsen company have fallen on hard times? Or, is television more important to advertisers than radio? (Considering the crap that passes for entertainment on the telly this summer, Nielsen has already discovered the lowest common denominator. If TV is that easy, radio will be a snap.)

Someone will call to see if I received my “Radio Ratings Diary,” and then I can set to work checking all the boxes for not listening. Actually, they want to know if I heard a radio at all, and if so, what time did I hear it, what station was it and was I at home, in a car, at work or in an “other place.”

So if some jerk drives by with his windows down and his radio on full blast, I do what? Flag him down and say, “I heard that. Gimme some info on the station. I’m in a survey.” Well, sure.

Or the neighbors might have a landscaping crew hard at work, and one of them could have the radio playing. What do I do? Jump over the fence and read the dial so I can write down the setting and maybe learn whether we’re all hearing the broadcast on AM or FM?


Nielsen doesn’t care why I don’t listen?

There is a place in the Nielsen radio diary where I can write comments about particular stations and their programming. Or, if I especially like or dislike a radio personality, I can write about him or her.

Oddly, at least to my mind, Nielsen doesn’t want to know why I don’t listen to radio. And, gee whiz, I could give them a list of reasons:

  1. Too much political crapola;
  2. Too much religious twaddle;
  3. Too much sports talk;
  4. Too much, uh, unmusical music;
  5. Too many ads; and
  6. Too many contests (e.g., “Be the 15th caller with the correct answer and win a week’s worth of weenies from Gut Buster’s Food Truck.”)

Truth to tell, there are a couple of battery-powered radios in my house, but they are for when the electricity goes out during a storm in tornado season(s).

The rest of the time, well, I change the radio batteries when I do the smoke alarms.

Listen to the radio? Nah. I’d rather sit around and write stuff like this.