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General Managers...Stop The Whining About PPM

February 23, 2011

During my first tour of duty at Radio Ink I remember, not so vaguely, that there were a lot of complaints, concerns, objections about the  way ratings were being calculated via the paper diary system. Fast forward ten Internet light years later and the Arbitron PPM (Portable  People Meter) seems to have quite a few General Managers hot under the collar. We wanted to know what you thought about how this  new technology has helped or hurt your ability to increase sales.

Here's one quote from a GM "I could go on for days about how radio is getting screwed by Arbitron's PPM. We've become a reach  medium who programs to the meter measurement and not to listeners or to help clients with marketing issues. The most repulsive aspect  is the mediocrity it has caused, meaning all formats sound the same. Very sad. I loved this industry but now we are more of a commodity  than a good, tight place that listeners want to go to - to feel good and for our clients to reach those targets". Another told us "PPM says  you are a 'listener' if you are exposed to the radio in a cab while on your cell phone for 5 minutes in a week  even if you didn't hear the  station and you don't even like it"

Veteran radio industry consultant and CEO of Walter Sabo has heard enough. "Everybody needs to stop whining" he told us yesterday. "You have a precise system.  It is a vast improvement over unaided recall. I think it;s great. Long overdue. Terrific technology". Sabo says the real failure will be if  Radio is not able to use the results from the technology to increase revenue. "It eliminates the hocus pocus because it's based on actual  usage not a reading writing test. Now you have the tool to lower inventory levels". Sabo said Arbitron deserves a lot of credit for  listening to all the whining.

The PPM was tested in the Philadelphia area about 5 years ago. By 2010 Arbitron was using PPM's in about 50 of the top markets. The device replaced the old diary system where households were sent the documentation and asked to write down information about their favorite radio stations. Critics of the diary would say it was often just filled in the day before it was due without much thought.

What do you think? Good? Bad? The same?



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- Elizabeth
(2/25/2011 8:53:27 AM)
Mark Ramsey posted some video this week discussing PPM use. It shows how some PPM order to keep the hefty remuneration they receive....carried the PPM of younger family members who weren't wearing them. It told of 2 families who tied their PPMs to a ceiling fan to keep them moving! It told of heavy radio listeners who never even considered putting on their PPM until they left the house, missing all of their early morning at home listening. The PPM is great in theory..but.....

- Barryob
(2/24/2011 11:57:13 AM)
When you sell for a station that has no “numbers” because it’s too new (as I have), you develop some great arguments as to why Arbitron ratings might not be the best way to gauge a station’s value. Of course, any intelligent person can argue both sides, but these were mine, and I owned them:

1. “It seems like the only people who have time to participate in Arbitron surveys are the unemployed and retired people; everyone else is too busy. Are these your primary demographics?”

2. “How many people do you know who would actually carry a PPM around with them everywhere they went? Would you? I think it takes a special kind of quirky person to do that—I always wondered—do they really represent the general population?”

3. “I remember I got a dollar in the mail and a laundry list of stuff to do when I was a busy professional in another industry. Since throwing money in the trash is counterproductive (and maybe even illegal), I remember I kept the dollar, but threw the rest of the stuff away.”

4. “Do the busy people you know have time to participate in stuff like this? (shut up and wait for a response) “ Hmm…I know what you mean. Are most of your customers like that?”

5. “Seems like the fox is guarding the hen house on THOSE numbers. How many of your customers listen to classic rock? You know, our play list is 1500 songs deep. You’ve heard our morning show, right?”

6. “You know, stations that use Arbitron have to pay a very, very hefty fee to use their system. I always wonder—do those numbers follow the money?”

7. “Arbitron is first and foremost a business. They’re a publicly traded firm on the New York Stock Exchange; their symbol is ARB. They’re definitely in business to make money—and they cater to large corporate entities willing to pay through the nose for ammo to give to their sales reps. We refuse to give them money, or participate in their process. Have you listened to our morning show?”

Will Baumann

- Will Baumann

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