Saturday, October 11, 2008

Suits, Countersuits and a Voice of Reason

The PPM saga continues. You've read about it and no doubt have an opinion.

Here's mine:

As I wrote in an earlier post, I am not for giving Arbitron a pass when it comes to sampling: panel size, gender, ethnicity, or geography; however, for the health and benefit of an already hurting broadcast industry I wish this matter would have been dealt with without the notice of the Washington Post, USA Today, NY Times and many others.

Too late.

One has to take notice when the NY and NJ AG's refer to PPM data as "fraudulent." In my mind that is like calling a car with a couple of bad tires a lemon. You and I both know Arbitron is having difficulty conducting research in ALL markets--not just those markets in which they are deploying PPM. Conducting research of any kind today is fraught with recruitment issues. Problematic, yes, fraudulent, I'm not prepared to make that leap. [I also found it disheartening that both the senior and junior senators from Illinois thought this was important enough to comment on. Just what we need--more government opinion inserted into private matters.]

Station owners are spending large sums of money to support PPM and it's Arbitron's duty and responsibility to deliver a market's measurement with as few anomalies and issues as possible. On Mark Ramsey's hear2.0 blog he dives into the data in one PPM market and illuminates some of the issues as one drills down into specific demographics. Frightening. And also reminiscent of the very real problems that occur every month and quarter in diary markets.

And now a pragmatic voice of reason from an individual who is a large stakeholder in PPM's success:

As many African-American and Hispanic broadcasters have been very vocal in their opposition of PPM, the Washington Post ran this article today with comments from Radio One's Alfred Liggins:

Some station executives defend the system, however, maintaining that Arbitron is working the bugs out. "Anytime you adopt a new technology, there are always short-term dislocations," said Alfred C. Liggins III, chief executive of Radio One Inc., the Lanham-based company that owns 53 stations -- including WMMJ and WKYS -- that seek African American listeners. "There's going to be a learning curve. . . . But [electronic measurement] is reality. I'd much rather get reality on the road then delay, delay, delay."

Liggins said that Radio One's stations in Houston and Philadelphia initially saw a steep drop in their ratings when the meters were introduced months ago but that they have since recovered to roughly the same ranking in the market.

Because the meters tell broadcasters who's listening to what within just a few days (compared with weeks under the diary method), stations can quickly "fine-tune" their promotions, commercial breaks and even on-air personalities, he said. In Philadelphia, for instance, Radio One removed a DJ from the air after just a few weeks when his ratings sagged; a similar personnel decision might have taken 18 months with diaries.

"If you're really brilliant and funny, you can keep talking," Liggins said. But as it turns out, "the number of people who really have that ability are few and far between."

Spot on!

Now I hope Mr. Liggins will be looking to hire more of those brilliant and funny talkers to populate additional dayparts on his radio stations. Those are the people who ARE radios future.

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