It’s all about your listeners. Your people, your programming, your gear… they’re all focused on building and retaining your audience.
We don’t have to tell you about the direct link between the size and composition of your audience—as measured and reported by your ratings—and your advertising revenue. That’s why it’s vital to you that every panelist in your market is accurately measured and that every station is playing on a level field.
Introducing Voltair, designed to give you greater confidence that every listener is counted when it counts the most.
Ratings, Programming & Technical Operations
Radio ratings have been called “a game of inches,” where winners and losers are sometimes decided by the thinnest of margins. Station management teams have always carefully monitored their markets’ listener data and taken action to maximize ratings and revenue.
With changes in rating survey methodologies in recent years, many program directors report making more dramatic changes than ever before. For example, dayparts have been moved, local breaks have been reduced, and programming clocks have become more rigid in response to the hard, quarter-hour boundaries of ratings credit. Likewise, the industry has seen changes in audio processing practices, airchain device order and other station engineering procedures—all in service to optimal performance of watermark-based ratings technologies.
Because ratings performance data is provided on a delayed basis, stations lack the means to conduct real-time analysis of audience response. Programmers have had limited insight into what efforts are of benefit and why. Hence, most station efforts to optimize their performance in ratings have been trial and error, with little insight into what may or may not be effective.
Understanding The Current Ratings Ecosystem
25-Seven® has been following the deployment of watermark-based rating methodologies since they were introduced. We’ve spoken with many program directors and engineers, getting their perspectives on the overall system architecture and the results of their optimization efforts.
After researching the publicly available data on the technology, our team of broadcast and audio experts uncovered the variables that contribute to watermark integrity. More importantly, we developed Voltair to provide you with the tools you need to monitor and analyze these variables, providing you with data to inform your technical and programming decisions.
What did we find?
Audio Content—The spectral characteristics of your audio content—music, announcer voices, etc.—may negatively impact the robustness of your watermark encoding. Simply put, some audio content encodes well while other content does not.
Listener Environment—A listener’s device may not detect particular content because of their current acoustic environment. A song or voice may not, for example, decode as well in a car as it does in a bedroom.
To address these issues, we needed to account for the highly complex set of interactions among the encoding and decoding processes, the audio properties of content, and listeners’ acoustic environments. We developed a totally new set of easy-to-use tools for Voltair to analyze and help you manage the consequences of these interactions.
VOLTAIR IN DEPTH
How Voltair Can Benefit You
Operating transparently in your airchain, Voltair:
Monitors and analyzes the robustness of watermark encoding across all program content.
Offers visibility into how listening environments may influence watermark decoding, using models of acoustic spaces where listeners are wearing or carrying their devices.
Includes advanced audio signal processing to enhance the detectability of the watermark codes within the context of your programming objectives.
Empowers programmers to make informed decisions to address potential weaknesses in either encoding or decoding.
You can compensate for changes in program material and listening environments during different dayparts and program types.
You may choose to balance strong and weak program segments within each quarter-hour time segment to produce successful decoding and get the earned credit for the full segment.
Voltair also serves as an off-line tool to identify produced and live content with low encoding confidence. New programming elements—liners, promotions, etc.—may be created with greater confidence of strong encoding.
Voltair and Your Ratings
Your revenue relies on your ratings. The overriding purpose of Voltair is to increase your confidence that those ratings accurately reflect the habits of your listeners.
As you work to get credit for all the ratings you’ve earned, keep the following in mind:
Even one listener device worth of data can make a measurable difference in your ratings.
Insights into how your audio content is handled during the watermarking process can show you ways to improve the robustness of your encoding.
Consideration of listening environments can guide changes that may improve the reliability of watermark decoding on listener devices.
When you have confidence in the end-to-end watermark system performance of your stations’ signals, you also have more confidence in the relationship between ratings and your programming decisions.
Voltair won’t increase your actual listenership, but it will help you be more confident that listeners to your station participating in the watermark-based ratings process are correctly measured.
North America: FCC and CE tested and compliant, power supply is UL approved.
Europe: Complies with the European Union Directive 2002/95/EC on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS), as amended by Commission Decisions 2005/618/EC, 2005/717/ EC, 2005/747/EC (RoHS Directive), and WEEE.
Well, we promised our customers we wouldn’t tell. We can tell you that we’ve sold over 900, and they’re on the air in every PPM® market in the US, and some markets outside the US.
Nope. Everybody that has one paid for it.
This is important, so let’s get this straight: If you don’t have listeners, or good programming, or a signal people can receive, Voltair isn’t going to help you. We only promise that Voltair will do two things for you: It will show in real time how well (or poorly) your programming is encoding, and -- if you choose -- it will allow you to enhance your chances of getting credit for the listening that actually occurs.
No. Voltair is a specialized monitor / processor for watermark signals. Think of your station as having two types of listeners: ones with human ears, and the electronic “ears” belonging to panelists’ meters. Traditional processing works for the former, Voltair for the latter.
No. Our client's toggle-testing proves that Voltair still makes a nice difference, in all formats. Of the dozens of toggle tests we know about, here are five of our favorite examples. Mainstream AC: +8% with Voltair Soft AC: +8% with Voltair Country: +5% with Voltair Top 40: +7% with Voltair Non-comm public Radio: +9% with Voltair
Well, from what we hear, not all stations updated to eCBET. And those that didn't seem pretty happy with their ratings, thanks to Voltair.
Like all processors, there may be a downside to being too aggressive, especially with eCBET. Voltair lets you tune the tradeoff between watermark robustness and audibility, but how you set it is up to you. Some stations use only the monitoring functions of the unit, and this has no effect on audio. Use your ears and tune accordingly.
Extreme Voltair enhancement, at levels that might have been appropriate for conventional CBET can make eCBET even more obvious. Typically, if you were running Voltair at a setting of 20 before, you’ll want to tune it down by 10 to 12 units.
Watermark codes are unique, so Voltair pairs with one encoder. It can be moved to a different station with a simple recalibration.
Voltair goes in your program chain, at the same point as your watermark encoder.
From our research, we see great advantage in placing the Voltair and encoder combination at the insertion points available in our Omnia 9 and 11 processors. Savvy programmers have been following this research with great interest and are implementing this strategy. We’ve built new “Voltair aware” presets in our flagship Omnia 11 processor, as part of our new Version 3.0’s G-Force dynamics engine.
It would appear so. PPM was designed in the 1990s. It was commercialized in the 2000s. It was never updated. Listening habits have evolved, and audio processing has evolved incredibly since then, but PPM® never did. Voltair pointed out many of the variables in the watermarking eco-system. New discoveries and knowledge help us refine and tune systems. This is true in any industry and with any technology. Technology is not static, it always evolves.
The first Voltair went on the air in May, 2014. By September, we sold over 50. Now, we’ve sold over 900, and Voltair is on the air in every major market. We continue to sell them, even after eCBET was introduced. If you compete in an electronically measured market, either you have Voltair, or your competitors do. Or both.
Complicated. First Nielsen said Voltair had no effect, then they admitted it did have an effect, but only on fringe cases. Then they introduced eCBET, saying this would both make Voltair redundant and proclaimed that all broadcasters would see an increase in ratings.
Can an audio processor be illegal? Exactly who would police that? And what about stations who only use Voltair as a monitor? Last we looked, your air-chain, methods and programming choices belong to your station.
By design, Voltair leaves no fingerprints, as most audio processors don’t. So we don’t think so.
Believe it or not, our customers don’t talk much about which audio processors they use. They treat that intel as a state secret. We respect this and always have. Anecdotally, we can report that many customers have come back for second and third orders, even post eCBET.
Our data export feature set was built as an option, but we gave away free trial licenses for about a year so programmers could try it. We are now charging a modest license fee as was always our plan.
No. Some stations have the latest Omnia processors, while some are stuck with older Optimods® or others. Some stations have high-priced morning talent, and some don’t. Some stations have 100,000 watts, and some have only 250 watts.
True confession: We’re broadcasters and we love Radio. We push the envelope. We invent things to make broadcasting better. Voltair has its place alongside other Telos Alliance inventions, like the Telos 10 (the digital on-air phone system that revolutionized talk radio), the Zephyr (the first use of ISDN in a broadcast product that forever changed remote broadcasting), the Omnia 11 (radio’s first FM audio processor with mutltipath reduction and a digital connection to exciters) and Axia, the world’s first audio consoles using Audio over IP (AoIP).
Our clients tell us that they see increases in all 3 key measurement metrics since Voltair came on the scene. Cume, TSL and AQH appear to be growing in every PPM market. This is significant. It speaks to a rising tide that lifts the radio broadcast boat. More accurate measurement is in the industry’s best interest and means more advertising dollars flowing back to Radio.