The debate over fixing inaccurate radio ratings continues. Arbitron has been attempting to roll out a new electronic, pager-sized device called the Portable People Meter that would accurately measure which radio stations panelists listen to.
The PPM picks up an inaudible signal from the radio to record exact listener habits. This is an important move for radio, because for decades media planners have had to rely on diaries from audience samples … known to be inaccurate. In the past, a panelist might write “I listened to Country Station X all morning” … but the PPM captures the fact that user changes the dial.
Yes. Probably when a commercial comes on.
The PPM has been getting flack from major radio networks because it has found many radio stations have lower ratings than previously thought. If users skip around, they listen to more stations for less time. And few analysts are commenting, but it is obvious the trigger that drives a radio listener to change the dial is a long commercial block — meaning the “ratings” for a commercial are even lower than the official numbers.
Now, lawsuits from the attorneys general of New York and New Jersey complain the new PPM device also undercounts minority listeners, which hurts the ratings of urban stations and thus the revenue they can command from advertising. The suits claim Arbitron under-represents minorities because it only recruits research panelists from homes with regular phone land lines, and many minorities in urban markets only use cell phones.
Not sure when this dispute will end, but for now, take all radio ratings with a grain of salt. Your best bet? When you spend on radio, set up your own system to measure the results.
Photo: Thomas Hawk