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July 17, 2012 4:38 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find accurate statistics regarding how many viewers/readers media organizations have?

I am absolutely sure that there has to be some kind of database regarding media viewers/readers. So far, I am only coming up with Nielsen that has some pretty arcane statistics that are generally pretty hard to comprehend. Do any of you know any good tools or academic databases that could provide simple answers for how many viewers major US televisions outlets have, how many readers major newspapers have and how many listeners radio radio shows have?
posted by eytanb to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
For American and Canadian newspapers, you want the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures. There are ways to massage these as well, but I believe that's what advertisers generally rely on.
posted by Diablevert at 5:03 AM on July 17, 2012

You can also look for media kits (advertiser info) for those organizations. I don't know how aggressively their claims are audited, but that can yield some directional information at least.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:08 AM on July 17, 2012

The problem is that most of that information is proprietary. Nielsen is, in fact, the main source for TV audience measurement. In the top 50 markets, this is accomplished through the set-top boxes that are owned by Nielsen, and in the rest of the markets, they use diaries and other backup methods (phone surveys, etc.). They give precious little of these data away for free, and stations pay handsomely for their reports. Also, TV is not generally measured based on the outlet (station), but by timeslot/program, although they can piece together these data for a general measurement of total viewership.

Radio's primary measurement data comes from Arbitron, another private outlet. Again, they give away some information for free, but not most of it. If you are looking for total listening audience for a station, the measure you're looking for is the "cume," and I don't know if this is on the free reports or not.

For TV and radio, "rating" is the % of all the available audience (in radio, measured in person 12 and older, for TV, measured in households) tuned to a specific show/station at a specific time; the "share" is the % of your audience out of people actually watching/listening at the time, so the share is always higher than the rating.

But basically, for electronic media in the US, the best you are going to do is Nielsen and Arbitron, because those are the major players. There are some other market research companies that do audience measurement, but again, most of what they collect they are selling, not giving away for free. There is no academic database of this information, because we would have to pay, too.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2012

Standard Rate and Data Service compiles a database - here's an overview from one library that subscribes.
posted by zepheria at 5:15 PM on July 17, 2012

BurrellesLuce has a frequently updated list of top media by circulation and unique monthly viewers.
posted by forkisbetter at 12:06 PM on July 19, 2012

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