Effects of ‘Weighting’ Hispanic Demographics Up in the Air
Process Helps Set Advertising Rates for Local TV Market
BY TANYA RODRIGUES
When Nielsen Media Research announced that it would give additional impact to responses from Spanish language-dominated households, one might wonder what the local media community scribbled about the decision in their own personal diaries.
It would likely be a mix of opinions with a general theme , that there is no perfect way to measure the current viewing audience.
Nielsen uses a combination of household television meters and viewer diaries.
The meters report overnight ratings and combine with the diaries for the seasonal “sweeps” reports that tend to set stations’ advertising rates.
There are currently between 300,000 and 400,000 Nielsen-metered homes in the San Diego market.
Giving additional impact to a number of diaries is called “weighting.”
Using Census 2000 material, Nielsen found 19.7 percent of the market is Hispanic. Of that, half are households in which Spanish is the dominant language, 9.9 percent of the market.
Nielsen has found that currently, Spanish-dominant Hispanic homes are weighted as 8.1 percent of the metered ratings. Now, starting this fall, it will be increased to 9.9 percent.
The change also officially adds the distinction of dominant language, adding a different category to the Hispanic market information.
Nielsen’s letter informing clients about the change and implementation arrived at Entravision Communication Corp.’s Kearny Mesa office June 13.
“The differences in tuning between Spanish-dominant Hispanic households and non-Spanish-dominant Hispanic households are significant enough to warrant that it be added to the meter sample process as an additional weighting control,” the letter read.
The day after the letter arrived, Philip Wilkinson, Entravision’s co-founder, president and chief operating officer, was optimistic over the development.
“If they were to get their sample corrected and therefore have a more accurate representation of Spanish-dominated Hispanic households in their metered sample in San Diego,” Wilkinson said, “we predict that we would have ratings roughly 25 percent greater than what we actually deliver now in the sweeps.”
Entravision operates four stations in the San Diego market, including Spanish-language XHAS/Channel 33, which has programming from the Telemundo network, and two repeater stations.
It owns one local station, Univision affiliate KBNT/Channel 17. Locally, Entravision also operates two English-language stations , UPN affiliate XUPN/Channel 13 and Fox affiliate XETV/Channel 6.
Jack Loftus, vice president of communications for New York City-based Nielsen, said the weighting of the Spanish-dominant homes will better reflect the market.
“We did it because we know that the language spoken influences television behavior,” Loftus said.
Other factors that influence behavior include whether there are children, three or more televisions, and cable television, and the results affecting ratings are weighted as well, he said.
– Changes May Not
Benefit All Stations
Donna Blanco, research and marketing director of Energy Communications Corp. in Chula Vista, the U.S. sales and marketing arm of three Televisa affiliates, said the change may help some Spanish-language stations, but not all.
“The good part about it is that the Spanish-dominant (market) has always been underserved and underrepresented, and so it always made it look like the Spanish were watching more English-language TV than what they really were,” Blanco said.
Energy’s stations are XEWT/Channel 12, XHUA/Channel 57 and XHBJ/Channel 45. Channels 12 and 57 are owned by Grupo Televisa S.A., a Spanish media company based in Mexico. Channel 55 is privately owned by a Televisa affiliate. The stations’ programming is handled in Tijuana.
According to Blanco, the Hispanic sample had veered toward acculturated homes in which English was the dominant language, she said.
“Now, with language stratification, we know that would be an enhancement to what they were doing in the past, but we’re still not sure if its going to help us,” Blanco said.
When similar language stratification took place in Los Angeles, the metered ratings jumped 40 percent, she recalled.
However, San Diego is a far more complicated market, with the same shows airing on different stations regularly, along with other factors, Blanco said.
“Here, it’s like yes, we would love to see the numbers jump up and we know they will for Univision and Telemundo, but we’re not sure if it will for us, because there are other factors that may hinder their ability to measure ‘X’ stations,” referring to the Tijuana-licensed outlets.
Culturally, the Hispanic diaries have been known to remember programming but not stations, she said. Many stations in San Diego run the same programs, so the benefit of the doubt might run to the larger stations.
According to Loftus, of Nielsen, the same is true with younger households, in which the head of the house is under the age of 35.
According to Blanco, another possible problem with the ratings is if the sample size over-measures households with cable.
“That also hinders the measurement of the X stations,” she said. “We believe cable penetration is not nearly as high as Nielsen is saying it is, and that’s because they’re over-sampling English-dominant Hispanics.”
Also, she said, adding additional categories isn’t enough. The Hispanic population can be pulled into at least five categories, including “speaks only Spanish,” “speaks mostly Spanish,” “speaks both languages evenly,” “speaks mostly English,” and “speaks only English,” Blanco said.
According to Michael McKinnon Sr., who owns local station KUSI/Channel 9/51, the decision to weight certain groups’ viewership is another step in a bad direction.
McKinnon disagrees with the weighting process in general, as well as how Nielsen collects its data.
“When they weigh numbers to make them come out the way they want them to come out, it doesn’t necessarily give you factual ratings,” he said.
To some extent, weighting taints the rating pool. It can even be overweighted according to the levels and languages spoken in the home. “I’m not sure you can classify Hispanic viewers that tightly,” McKinnon said. “In some homes, some Spanish is spoken, sometimes not.”
It depends who’s in the home at the time, he said. “If you have a grandmother, a mother and a daughter in the same home, then there are various levels of Spanish being spoken, and it doesn’t mean they don’t listen to English programming,” McKinnon said.
Loftus said the weighting process makes up for the problems in finding cooperative and responsive Nielsen homes.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of going out and signing up 34 more Hispanic homes.”
Randomness is vital to the controls needed for a quality sample. “At any point of time, you’re going to be a tick or two under the many categories.”
The categories include cable or no cable, three categories of household size, several categories for presence and ages of children, race of household head, and more.
“All these criteria have to be satisfied within the confines of drawing a random sample,” Loftus said. “We’re close, you should always be close to the estimate of what your overall population is, but you’re never going to be consistently dead-bang on because it’s a random sample.”
Nielsen is responsible for explaining its procedures and policies for research, he noted.
For now, Nielsen continues to try and improve the way it persuades people to participate in the survey samples, Loftus said.
“In a perfect world you wouldn’t have to weight,” he said. “In a perfect world, you knock on a door and are greeted with a smiling face, someone who instantly recognizes you.
“You introduce yourself and they say ‘Yes, sure come on in, we want to be a Nielsen sample home and we love you dearly.’ But that’s not the real world.”
– Questions Raised About
Border Market Ratings
Lucy Roberts, president of HMC Advertising Inc., said she uses the ratings of the San Diego market only as a guide. She’s been in the advertising business for 33 years.
Her firm, which is based in San Diego, specializes in Hispanic and Asian markets. Its media buys last year totalled close to $2 million.
Roberts buys the ratings only in cities such as Phoenix, that aren’t border markets.
“When you’re on a border, like in San Diego, most of your clients would ask you to also bring in the Hispanic market from Mexico, which is Tijuana, Baja California and Mexicali.”
To do that, she looks at the ratings in Mexico and in the United States.
“I’m not sure if we’ll ever really see ratings where they’ll take Tijuana into consideration,” Roberts said.
She says results are the focus rather than numbers.
Roberts’ start in advertising was a radio sales job, and her first impression of ratings is still vivid.
“In there, you can live and die by the numbers,” she recalled. “Sometimes you’re on the top, sometimes you’re second, sometimes you’re third.”
Having everything depend on how many diaries were turned in was frustrating.
“Things are changing, but I don’t think they have changed enough to make a big difference and impact the Hispanic market as of yet,” Roberts said. “Maybe on down the line it will happen.”
With a susceptible system, the key to buying media is to keep in touch with the TV market by constantly watching the shows.
“You have to really understand what’s going on,” Roberts said. She uses ratings from Mexico as well as local ratings, sometimes averaging them out.
“I think the Hispanic market has a great future in San Diego. The hard part is how you include Tijuana,” Roberts said. “It’s always going to be that you have to keep up with what’s going on. It’s harder in a border town.”