Harker Keeps The Pressure On Nielsen


Just days after Nielsen sent out a press release touting AQH growth for radio since its enhanced CBET product was rolled out, consultant Richard Harker has unleashed a series of blogs criticizing the ratings firm and PPM. In his latest blog, Harker asserts that the more robust encoding from Nielsen is causing stronger tones and some listeners are now able to hear those tones.

In his latest posting, Harker writes that “Back when PPM was being developed, engineers told Arbitron executives that the only way to make encoding work reliably was to make the encoding tones audible. Since few radio listeners enjoy the sound of buzz-saws, Arbitron decided to lower the level of the encoding tones anyway. Voltair demonstrated the extent to which the decision hurt radio ratings. Some formats were losing upwards of 30% of their listening credit, and Voltair was giving a good chunk of that back.”

Harker says Nielsen had to do something once Voltair provided them with “evidence that PPM was not capturing all of radio exposure.” And, he says, what they did was crank up the tones. “Yes, it helped radio station ratings, but at what cost? The enhancement appears to have been an inelegant blunt-force effort to block Voltair. And in the process, it bludgeoned programming quality. It makes the tones more apparent in the oddest places. The buzz-saw becomes most apparent in programming that already encoded well. High-density midrange stuff seems to trigger the loudest encoding. Meanwhile, the stuff that was poorly encoded has seen limited improvement.


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