Nielsen Audio announced on September 1st that it will be applying a PPM Headphone Adjustment Factor to its estimates beginning with the October 2020 PPM survey. This move is to account for the variety of ways PPM panelists listen to radio station streams, including the growing use of wireless headphones.

As a first step to this methodology change, Nielsen surveyed 5,000 former PPM panelists last fall, asking about audio listening (radio and non-radio) and headphone usage. The survey results are calculating a lift for streaming listening and this adjustment will be applied to quarter hour listening of encoded streams, including those streams that are Total Line Reported.

The 5,000-person survey found that the largest piece of radio listening (78.3%) occurs over the air with no headphones, followed by streaming without headphones (12.3%), then streaming with wireless headphones (4.0%), and streaming with wired headphones (3.5%). These ‘lift factors’ will be calculated by demo group, as research indicates that age, race and gender are highly associated with radio listening.

While the results will vary by station and survey, topline findings from a preliminary look at 301 stations against June 2020 data showed an average AQH Persons gain of 7%, while only 14 stations had an AQH Rating gain of 0.1. Over two-thirds of stations observed no change in rank position and all 27 formats that Nielsen broke out witnessed increases in AQH Persons.

To view Nielsen’s presentation slides, login to the Nielsen Portal, click on Quick Links, scroll down to Audio Workspace, click on Client Meetings and Webinars and look for the Headphone Adjustment download.

Once October 2020 PPM data has released, the RRC will be taking an in-depth look at the changes. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions.