Radio Evangelist

Thoughts of a Evangelist for Radio in all its forms

Posts Tagged ‘arbitron’

House Committee to Review PPM

Posted by Steve on November 25, 2009

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is set to hold a hearing on Wednesday, December 2, to examine Arbitron’s radio audience measurement device, the Portable People Meter (PPM).

The government’s intrusion into the measurement of media audiences is fraught with problems, illustrated by this quote from the chairman of the committee – Congressman Ed Towns, from the second paragraph of the committee’s announcement:

“With an unprecedented decline in ratings among popular minority television and radio stations, we must explore the possibility of methodological flaws in the implementation of the PPM,” said Chairman Towns. “As it stands now, the current system jeopardizes the future of minority broadcasting.”

Ed Towns.jpg

Congressman Towns, what connection would a “decline in ratings among popular minority television…stations” have to do with PPM? PPM only officially measures radio, and even if Arbitron did measure local TV, there could be no decline in ratings because there are no pre-ppm ratings from Arbitron to compare to!

Here’s more from this press release – pay attention to the bolded portion in particular:

Chairman Towns served a subpoena to the Media Ratings Council (MRC) in September 2009 for documents detailing its oversight of Arbitron’s use of the PPM, after Arbitron forbid MRC from releasing documents related to the Committee’s investigation. Although Arbitron promised full cooperation with the investigation, the company prohibited MRC from providing the Committee with any documents related to the PPM. Furthermore, Arbitron provided the Committee with insufficient documents that were either publicly available or biased toward the company.

So – the Congressman wants more documents that are “…publicly available or biased towards the company?” Huh?

This hearing should be interesting. Not because the subject is particularly compelling, but because it may be an illustration of exactly why government shouldn’t be involved with issues like the measurement of media exposure.

If Congressman Towns’ and the Committee’s statements are indicative of the way the hearing will proceed – discussions of why the PPM has reduced TV ratings and why Arbitron hasn’t provided the Committee with more publicly available or biased documents – then Congress will have wasted valuable treasure of time and resources.

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PPM, Politics, and Reality

Posted by Steve on October 8, 2009

In today’s MediaLife, an interview by Diego Vasquez with Bernie Shimkus sheds light on much of the controversy surrounding the rollout of the PPM device. Shimkus is VP/Director of Research at Harmelin Media. Harmelin is one of the largest media buying services on the east coast. Based in Philadelphia, Harmelin’s buyers and research team have been exposed to the PPM longer than people from other markets. As a media buying service, they have no ax to grind – they just want good, accurate data so that their clients can succeed.

In his interview, Diego Vasquez asks, “Are media people still concerned about charges that the PPM undercounts minorities? How much credence do you give these claims?” Shimkus answers:

Media people would be more concerned about those charges if they were based on hard, statistical facts rather than ulterior business motives.

Agencies and advertisers want accurate numbers that represent all groups as much as stations do.

Unfortunately, most of the claims about the undercounting of minorities just aren’t true.

For example, the cume audiences for most ethnic formatted stations have increased significantly under the PPM methodology. Since by definition cume audience represents the number of different people a station reaches in a week, I don’t know how higher cumes for minority stations translates into “undercounting.”

Finally, Vasquez asks, “There have been groups and politicians trying to stop the rollout of the PPM. Do you think any of them will succeed eventually? Or do you expect the issue to eventually die down?” Mr. Shimkus answers:

For the sake of our clients, and the radio industry itself, we certainly hope not. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and even more political posturing based on that misinformation.

This is not an area that politicians should be inserting themselves.

And the radio industry would be better served to stop the bickering with Arbitron, and instead concentrate on using the wealth of new data the PPM provides to make a stronger case for why radio advertising is still an effective media channel for advertisers.

Read the entire interview here.

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Nielsen, Arbitron and the Upcoming Battle – Part II: Engaged

Posted by Steve on August 17, 2009

Several months ago, I wrote an article about the potential for battle between Arbitron and Nielsen. It was called “Nielsen, Arbitron and the Upcoming Battle.” You can link to it here.

Since then, Arbitron announced its “ARB-TV” program and just last week the Financial Times broke a story about a new consortium of advertisers and agencies

In today’s “Taylor on Radio-Info,” Tom Taylor had a couple of paragraphs on this topic. He says, in part:

Now, #3, I’m hearing more concrete chatter about Area 51-kinds of research using an electronic detector much smaller than a PPM.

I thought to myself – “huh, top secret development? Didn’t I post a link to the actual photo of the Nielsen Go Meter?”

So, I popped back to the article and – lo and behold – the link to the picture of the “Go-Meter” was broken. A Google search for “Go Meter” or the file name for the original picture turned up nothing. Any reference to the “Go Meter” has been (it seems) removed from the Nielsen website. Interesting.

So – Tom is right. Nielsen HAS gone stealth on its PPM attack project.

Also in his article, Tom mentions the idea of installing encoding software on a cell phone that would perform the function of a device like the PPM. There are many problems with using a mobile device like a cell phone as a measurement device for audience ratings. The biggest one is the instability of the platform. A measurement device for media audience ratings needs to work like a simple appliance. Having other applications running on the platform at the same time raises the possibility of instability exponentially. Thus, the whole platform could crash and detection of media exposure would stop. The way to avoid this is to use an imbedded operating system on a single-function device, like the PPM. These devices can be rock-solid stable with very high levels of reliability. There are also behavioral reasons why the cell-phone solution doesn’t make sense, but this single technical reason is enough.

So – Arbitron and Nielsen are rattling sabers, but in a “muffled” way. It’s clear that the muffles will be taken off the sabers pretty soon. Nielsen will attack Arbitron in the major markets with portable electronic measurement. Arbitron’s move is to encroach upon Nielsen with its ARB-TV project and alignments with companies like TRA and Tivo.

Let the battles begin!

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Ratings, Radio, Sales – The Debate Goes On

Posted by Steve on July 30, 2009

Chuck Francis, VP New Media at RemergeMedia.com, wrote a well-received article in Radio Business Report recently called “A New Day for Radio.”

Chuck makes the valid point that, in truth, ratings don’t matter, except to “…those that provide ratings.” However, this common-sense statement misses the mark. Yes, it’s not the ratings that matter to the listener or the advertiser. It’s the thing that the ratings represent.

For example, Chuck says:

In the years I spent as a Program Director I cannot recall one single instance where a listener came up to me at an event or a remote and said: “the reason I listen to your station is because your station the number one station.” In fact, even if your station is 13th in the market – I’d argue you’re number one in the minds of the people that listen to you regularly.

One of the reasons that a listener is loyal to a station is because of its reputation among her peers. The listener doesn’t look at the ratings and make a rational decision about whether or not to listen to a station because it’s #1 in one category or another, but she does decide whether to listen partially based on her peer group’s relationship to the station. The ratings are a surrogate for this – they tell us roughly how many and what kind of people are listening to each station. They tell us about the listeners’ peer groups.

On the advertiser side, the ratings are a surrogate for a true measure of results. In the absence of a way to directly measure the ability of a station to deliver results for a specific product, the ratings system was developed in an attempt to predict what will happen if you run a spot on a station.

Those stations who achieve success without ratings have found other ways to measure their reputation with their audience and to predict the results their advertisers will have when they run a spot on the station. However, I suspect that these substitutes for ratings remain surrogates of a direct measurement of reputation or results.

TRA, a research firm in New York, is developing a very interesting way to measure results in TV advertising… a methodology which could well be transferred to radio and other media. Instead of measuring how many people are viewing a particular program, TRA measures how many people actually were exposed to a specific ad and how many of those people actually purchased the product being advertised. This is similar in many ways to the work that was done on Arbitron and Nielsen’s suspended Project Apollo, but TRA is processing millions of households’ viewing data and matching it up against their purchasing data. As this platform matures and is able to capture not only TV viewing but also other forms of media, we will move away from the surrogacy of ratings and towards the direct measurement of the results of radio campaigns.

Of course, it is not likely that this direct measurement of results will be applicable for all advertisers, particularly local retailers. As data is developed inferences will be possible that are much more precise than today’s rating system. TRA could syndicate their data in such a way as to provide local decision-makers tools to determine which media selections are best for their businesses.

Direct response radio marketers are measuring this today, for their clients. One particularly sophisticated firm, Strategic Media, has literally written the book on the subject. Through extensive testing and results measurement, they have built very detailed databases of the stations and creative execution that works best for their clients. Perhaps local radio can learn from this and develop similar data for their advertisers to use.

Please share your views on this subject by commenting on this article.

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Has Arbitron really exited the streaming audio measurement biz?

Posted by Steve on April 22, 2009

Katy Bachman, in a brief article in MediaWeek reporting on the decision by TargetSpot to use AndoMedia for its streaming audio measurement, also stated that:

Arbitron quietly decided to get out of the streaming radio ratings business earlier this year and discontinued its relationship with comScore. According to industry sources, Arbitron was unable to make money from the business faced with a competitor who charged little or nothing for the ratings and delivered them as a byproduct of its ad server business.

Well, it must have been very quiet, because the only other mention of this I found was on the blog Internetradioworld in a post on April 9th:

According to industry sources, Arbitron was unable to make money from the business faced with Ando Media, their main competitor, who charged little or nothing for the ratings and delivered them as a byproduct of its ad server business.

InternetRadioWorld’s blog entry seems to be an analysis of the impact of such an exit on the industry.

Both of these articles were within days of Arbitron and Edison’s announcement of the research from their “Infinite Dial 2009” survey indicating that online radio listening cume audience has increased to 42 Million.

Now – Michael Skarzynski, the new CEO at Arbitron, and all the other folks at Arbitron, are pretty smart. I strongly doubt that Arbitron is “getting out” the streaming audio measurement business and leaving it to AndoMedia. And the folks at ComScore are quite bright, too. Measurement of streaming media has been a big investment for them and the market for this data is only going to grow. So, what’s up here?

Posted in Advertising, Media Research, streaming | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »