Friday, November 16, 2007

Bad Week in Columbia

37° - overcast at 10am

Nobody seems to be happy with the ratings giant these days.

Yesterday the trades reported on a letter sent to the company's Columbia headquarters by Clear Channel, Cox, Radio One and Cumulus - over PPM sample sizes.

The letter - sent to key Arbitron executives - opened with:

"All of us have been vocal supporters of the concept of electronic measurement in radio for several years, and we remain committed to the need for accurate, high quality electronic ratings as a way to program and sell our stations. As of this writing, the PPM system has been implemented in two markets for several months, with one month of information available in New York. To date, PPM has not provided accurate or reliable data for all demographic groups."

"We are calling on you to take immediate action to resolve this."

"The most immediate issue is sample size, especially with regard to 18-34 year olds and ethnic groups. The situation is clear: To secure a legitimate representation of listener activity, the number of people participating in the PPM survey must be increased."

Radio-Info.Com reports that the customers are demanding a larger sample - and to pay for it - they suggest eliminating the age 6-11 demographic and focus on the traditional 12+.

They would also like to see the company
"key in on a better sample for ages 18-54, where most advertising business is done."

Added: Dave Lange on "Sample Sizes and PPM" - read here.

Earlier in the week -
Arbitron was taken to task by WSRT/WKLT/WFCX Traverse City, MI GM Charlie Ferguson for sending survey participation invitations to two more staff members - plus one invite to "resident" at the station's address.

As you may recall - the Traverse City spring book was reissued after it was discovered that two WSRT employees may have filled out diaries.

Ferguson asked that Arbitron consider a database of station employee addresses and names to avoid future problems but reports that idea received a cold reception. Charlie was quoted in All Access:

"If my staff has gotten three separate invitations to fill out diaries, how many of my competitors have received them as well? What if they didn't turn down the opportunity? We can't be the only stations whose staff is being contacted, can we? Arbitron has a real responsibility to insure the integrity of the ratings and that radio station/company employees don't participate in the survey, but the opposite would appear to be happening."

Arbitron's Tom Mocarsky
reportedly responded in Radio Business Report with:

"The sampling rate is so high in Traverse City that its inevitable that households with radio station employees get selected. With each survey, approximately on out of every 45 households gets selected to be in our starting sample. And, once the survey is done, one out of every 129 people in the market ends up in our survey. Despite the odds of getting selected, people in the radio industry are remarkably honest. It is an uncommon event for us to re-issue a report because of media affiliation."

(On keeping a list of radio station personnel) "This would be a logistical nightmare and it raises significant privacy issues."

Let's hope the folks at Arbitron can pull it together; the industry needs a source of credible data.

And nobody likes it when the customers are screaming - no matter what business you're in.

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