Monday, October 6, 2008

A Tale of Two [Arbitron] Diaires

In the not to distant past I was involved with a station that was in a multi-front battle for male audience. In this particular small market there were at least 5 stations vying for the males shares--a tough road no matter how you sliced it.

That brings us to those two pesky male diaries, both from the same household and with enough AQH's to take a station from essentially last to first with a big lead. And since there were so few males diaries to begin with those 2 diaries carried so much weight they were the difference between success and failure! Easily provable with a simple diary review. Good thing Arbitron calls these diary ratings "estimates." Sure, we voiced our concerns, but after numerous rounds of discussion that ratings disaster stood. Magically, the next book was not quite as out of wack.

If I had known all I had to do was call the states Attorney General to complain I would have done it. After all, this stations financial health depended reliable ratings information to sell advertising and to uphold its standing in the market in the face of stiff competition. Wrong. No such help available. This was between a vendor [Arbitron] and its customer [the radio station].

So how did the current PPM battle become not only a state legal issue but a POLITICAL football as well? Of course, the two go hand in hand.

Despite having had my fair share of "discussions" with Arbitron over the years I do not believe they are purposefully trying to screw their clients. I don't fault the complainants either for trying to get the fairest ratings possible, in fact, I applaud and support their desire to get what they are paying for. My objection is making this a news event when it should be handled behind the scenes.

Like any good political fight it is escalating out of control with Arbitron releasing PPM data two days early and the NY AG warning Arbitron, radio stations and ad agencies of the risks they are taking by releasing, using, selling, quoting these potentially "tainted" numbers. (not sure if I should laugh or cry)

While radio is going through a very challenging time (along with everybody else right now) the last thing the industry needs is to be screaming from the rooftops--hey look at us we got even more problems, our fancy new 15 plus years in the making ratings systems stinks!

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