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Glossary of Terms

Click here to see this glossary in alphabetical order.

A glossary of Radio Ratings Terms or Expressions of Audience Measurement.


  • Cume: The estimated number of different listeners that tune in during a daypart in an average week, sometimes called "reach" or "circulation."
  • Average Quarter-Hour (AQH): The average number of people listening in any quarter hour during a particular time period.
    For example:  If you worked for a store instead of a radio station, the Cume would be the number of different people who shopped in your store each week, while the AQH would be the average number of people in the store during any fifteen minute period.


  • Persons: The total count, Cume or AQH, of the number of people listening.  Rounded to the nearest one-hundred persons, with the last two zeroes dropped for display purposes.
  • Rating: The persons estimate expressed as a percent of the population.  AQH and Cume ratings are reported.
  • Share: The most commonly used and cited estimate, it's a station's Average Quarter-Hour audience in the context of the Average Quarter-Hour audience for all radio (otherwise known as Persons Using Radio).  It's your station's percentage of all radio listening.
    Note:  Persons estimates are absolute measurements; rating and share are relative measurements expressed as percentages.


  • Metro Survey Area (MSA or Metro): Generally corresponds to a government-defined county configuration for a market.  There are exceptions, based on historical usage of radio in a market, or other marketing considerations.
  • Non-metro: Those counties in a market not part of the metro, but included as part of the DMA or TSA.  Non-Metro counties are surveyed only in the Spring and Fall surveys.
  • Total Survey Area (TSA): Includes those counties penetrated significantly by signals from stations licensed to the Metro Survey Area.  The Metro Survey Area definition plus the non-metro counties yields the Total Survey Area.
  • Designated Market Area (DMA): A Nielsen geography defined by television viewing, not radio listening, patterns.  It may or may not include all counties in the Metro or TSA.
  • Total Market: Includes all counties in any of the above market definitions.  
    Note:  See the front of Nielsen's online eBook for a map of geographies in your market.

  • Demographics: Population groups identified by age, sex and/or ethnicity.  There are two types: Discrete Demographics, which do not overlap (e.g., Men and/or Women 18-24, 25-34 and 35-44), and Target Demographics, which are broader and indicate the audience group to which the station's programming is aimed  (e.g., Men and/or Women 18+, 18-34 and 25-49).
  • Dayparts: Industry-accepted time periods for radio listening; e.g., Monday-Friday 6AM-10AM or Saturday 3PM-7PM.  May also be "custom" Dayparts such as a time period for a particular program.
  • Persons Using Radio (PUR): The total Average Quarter-Hour audience for all radio in any particular time period and demographic in the Metro Survey Area of a market.  

  • Audience Composition: The age, sex and/or ethnic makeup of a station's listening audience.
  • Gross Quarter-Hours (Impressions): The total quarter-hours of listening to a station by its audience.
  • Time Spent Listening (TSL): The amount of time the average person spends listening during a particular time period.   Expressed in hours or quarter-hours.
  • Loyalty:  A measure of the amount of quarter-hours listeners contribute to a station as a percentage of their listening to all radio; a station's share of its listeners' radio use.
  • Choice: Exclusive listeners choose only one station.   First Choice listeners choose other stations, but they choose your station at least as much if not more than any others.  2nd/3rd choice listeners select at least one if not more than one other station before your station.   Adding the Exclusive and First Choice categories reported in the Loyalty and Choice analysis yields "core" listeners.  The remaining percentages added together are also known as "fringe" listeners.

QUALITATIVE TERMS:  Two terms are commonly used in qualitative data:

  • Composition answers the question: What percentage of my listeners...?
  • Index answers the question: Are my station's listeners more likely or less likely than the total market to...?
    > 100 = more likely
    < 100 = less likely
  • Use this guide to help determine which are your best opportunities:

    Opportunities Index % Composition
    Best High High
    Good High Medium
    Average Medium Medium
    Low Low Low
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