Does Cumulus Have A Problem With Nielsen?


CEO Mary Berner was asked a question about ratings during the company earnings call. During the first part of the answer, Berner said Cumulus has gained back most of the ratings shares that were lost from 2012. It was the second part of her answer that needed a little more analyzing.

Berner went on to say that there was choppiness in Cumulus’ larger markets and she added that was due to issues with Nielsen’s measurement technology. We hadn’t heard anything about Nielsen having any issues or problems with its PPM technology so we asked for clarification from Cumulus.

Here’s the clarification we received after the earnings call. Turns out it’s the same complaint we’ve heard since ratings were invented. “We have discussed with Nielsen our sample concerns based on deficiencies in specific counties in some of our key markets. They have acknowledged our concerns and are working to correct the issues.”

We shared the quote from Cumulus with Nielsen and requested a comment. We did get a pretty detailed response about their technology. “Nielsen’s PPM technology is utilized in 48 of the largest radio markets and is put through a rigorous testing process. PPM is reviewed as part of the annual MRC accreditation process and audited on an annual basis. PPM Radio average-quarter hour monthly data is accredited in 30 PPM markets. The technology and methodology behind our ratings remains a trusted currency for our clients.”


  1. Isn’t this just typical.

    First the problem was culture. Let’s all hold hands and make fun internet videos of dogs and bizarre corporate acronyms.That should do it. Nope, as it turns out employee culture only gets worse when there are mass firings and the crown jewels get sold for scrap. Who knew?

    Then it was too much debt. Too much debt was limiting any ability to grow so bankruptcy would be the panacea to all of life’s problems. Whoops, that didn’t work. Now we all work for the bank, literally. Fun guys though.

    Still no growth? Let’s blame Nielsen. They don’t know what they’re doing. Yes, Nielsen is definitely the problem, until they’re not.

    Soon we will blame immigrants, the weather, government regulation, or mix and match. So many things to blame management incompetentcy on and obviously anything is better than the truth.

  2. I agree. This is a significant problem with Nielsen. I had a similar problem with my bathroom scale. It kept telling me I was fat.

  3. “Ratings-schmatings”, sez a sometimes hilarious, but always raspy-voiced presenter – one who is occasionally armed with a seltzer bottle.
    Put the dough into demonstrating advertiser ROI.

  4. Nielsen is not the only game in town. I’ve heard Eastlan does a better job on sample sizes and their uniqueness on how they perform this at a fraction of the cost. Questions have been raised many times though the years about their effectiveness on smaller outlying stations with a descent signal into the surveyed market. Their sampling is spotty at best and in turn “skews” the overall rating. It’s worth a look at the way other companies survey markets. After all, it’s your “bottom line” that can be affected.

  5. Cumulus has legit reason to question the sample sizes. I’ve spoken to people who have had entire books based on a sample size of 8. Yes, single digit 8. How can that figure, which is statistically worthless, be useful for ANYTHING in a given market?

    Nielsen has a problem … they can’t get enough people to do a diary/PPM to generate meaningful stats. It should be criminal for them to actually charge for those kinds of results. A straw poll in the street would generate numbers that are just as useful.


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