Radio networks protest, so we still can’t hear the truth


Today’s youth are consumed with MP3 players, mobile phones, video games, Facebook and YouTube. So if you asked a parent if she thinks today’s youth spend less time with radio, the answer would be … duh. Yes.

Unfortunately, a new system that accurately tracks radio ratings remains under fire from the Clear Channel networks of the world, and Arbitron continues to delay its rollout in major U.S. markets. Mediaweek reports this week that the delay in the new radio measurement system — the Portable People Meter or PPM — is causing many marketers to question whether PPM is effective.

All of this is really, really sad. We’ve noted before that PPM is a brilliant device. It replaces diaries to record radio ratings by tracking a signal broadcast from each radio station, and can tell if a listener switches channels. For about four decades, radio ratings were based on a survey participant filling out a journal — now, we finally get the real deal.

The PPM ratings are active in Houston and Philly, and the early results have shaken the radio industry by finding — gasp! — ratings are falling for some segments of the youth set. So, predictably, Clear Channel and other radio nets protested that sample sizes were off, blah blah blah, and Arbitron, who runs PPM, went back to the drawing board.

As Mediaweek notes, no matter how Arbitron rethinks the sample sizes, some radio stations are going to get whammed with lower ratings. And the overall trend cannot be masked. Marketers should push Arbitron to get PPM to market. Radio remains a viable medium, but without accurate data and ratings, the radio industry as a whole will disappoint its clients who are measuring real results.

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