Posts Tagged ‘PPM’

Nashville Readies for Personal People Meter Fueled Changes

June 28, 2010

Nashville, Tennessee, has just become the 44th market nationally to adopt Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) for measuring radio listenership. Considering the readings taken by the device in other markets, it is not surprising that people in Nashville are bracing for a change in the distribution of advertising funds.

As The Tennessean reports:

“It’s going to shake up the ratings and how stations are perceived by advertisers,” said Dennis Gwiazdon, president of the Nashville Area Radio Organization and vice president and general manager of South Central Media, which owns Mix 92.9 (WJXA-FM) and 96.3 JACK-FM (WCJK-FM).

“It’s definitely going to force the programming departments to be more judicious in what they play on the air.”

There is certainly precedent for this stance. Just take a look at the numbers produced for The Sean Hannity Show, which experienced a 20% drop in ratings across multiple markets after the introduction of the PPM. The Tennessean article details several more examples of a similar nature:

In Detroit, Breakfast Club morning show hosts Kevin O’Neill and Lisa Barry found themselves without a job in April when the Clear Channel-owned WNIC-FM switched to a music intensive format after PPM ratings showed the formerly No. 1 morning show was coming in at No. 11 among 35- to 64-year-old

A sample audience of 754 Nashville residents put on their PPMs and began collecting data a few days ago.  The results will be compiled and previewed by advertisers and station managers in August and then released to the public in October.

Image: Silenus81 / CC 2.0


Minority Broadcasters At Odds With Arbitron’s PPM Again

February 24, 2010

Arbitron’s Personal People Meter (PPM) is one of the most controversial and embattled pieces of measurement technology that I know of.  Touted at its introduction as the wave of the future for measuring radio listenership and audience demographics, its accuracy has been consistently challenged since its introduction. It has been the subject of civil lawsuits against Arbitron by the attorney generals of New York, New Jersey and Maryland. It has also been the subject of both FCC and Congressional hearings concerning its accuracy, particularly in the realm of minority broadcasters.

Minority broadcasters are so concerned about the PPM that in 2008 they formed their own lobbying group, The PPM Coalition, composed of the Spanish Broadcasting Sytem, Entravision, Univision Radio, ICBC Broadcast Holdings, Border Media Holdings, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, the Spanish Radio Association, and the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.

Now the conflict over Arbitron’s sampling methodologies is ramping up yet again in the form of a court battle brewing between the ratings agency and PPM Coalition member The Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS). Eric Sass at Media Daily News reports:

SBS signed a contract with Arbitron for radio audience measurement by PPM, a passive electronic measurement device, in June 2007, including a requirement that SBS encode its audio signals so they can be measured by PPM. [Note: this was before the minority sampling controversy began. –GW]

SBS then pushed for a credit from Arbitron based on a contractual clause concerning minimum audience sample sizes. Arbitron refused and SBS stopped paying. The battle was now fully joined. Sass continues:

On Feb.4, SBS stopped encoding its audio signals in New York, Miami, Chicago, L.A. and San Francisco. On Feb. 11, Arbitron responded by obtained a restraining order from the New York State Supreme Court requiring SBS to begin encoding for PPM again. At a second hearing on Feb. 16, the court confirmed that SBS must continue encoding for PPM measurement, at least for the time being.

Looks like rocky client relations if you ask me. Now that things have entered the courtroom, the fur is beginning to fly. SBS is challenging the legality of their prior Arbitron contracts stating that they had the PPM measurement system forced upon them with no assurance of accuracy or quality. At the same time, the PPM Coalition is pushing the FCC to open an inquiry into the PPM.

Arbitron has a good bit at stake here if the SBS wins and no longer have to encode for the PPM that removes a large chunk of data from the Arbitron reports, devaluing the PPM data as a whole. In the meantime, Nielsen is still pushing into the American radio measurement industry and each bit of bad publicity for Arbitron is a boon to their expanding efforts.

Looks like it’s going to be one heck of a year in the measurement industry! Stay tuned!

Image: Arbitron Logo / Fair Use: reporting

Arbitron CEO Skarzynski Resigns

January 13, 2010

Metrics are crucial to those of us in the radio industry. In commercial radio, your revenue stream is ad revenue and ad buys are based on metrics.

It was, therefore, a major item of interest Monday when the CEO of Arbitron, who provide ratings data for a large percentage of American radio and advertising concerns, suddenly resigned without any forewarning. Immediately in the wake of this event, questions were raised about the veracity of his recent testimony before Congress. Paul Farhi, a staff writer at The Washington Post, reports:

[Michael P.] Skarzynski’s resignation comes six weeks after he testified about the PPM system in a hearing before a congressional subcommittee. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), said Monday that Skarzynski may have “intentionally misled” the panel. Congressional sources said that the resignation was related to Skarzynski’s testimony and that subcommittee staff members were reviewing the transcript.

Arbitron has had a rather rough year or two. While their new Portable People Meter (PPM) system has been embattled on several fronts, the economic recession hit, and just at a time when they were increasing their prices. On top of that, Nielsen, long at the top in the TV metrics field, has been diving into the radio metrics end of the pool. As a matter of fact, Nielsen has already taken two major clients away from Arbitron in several markets: Cumulus and Clear Channel.

RadioInk brings us a bit of info on Skarzynski’s repacement:

[William] Kerr has been on Arbitron’s board since 2007 and has chaired the board at Meredith — which publishes magazines and other special-interest publications and operates local TV stations — since 2006, having served on its board since 1994. He was Meredith’s CEO from 1996-2007 and before that was president/COO.

On the good side, it seems as though Kerr is a set of able hands in just the right place and time. No matter the real reason for Skarzynski’s departure, its abrupt nature will be sure to make waves. It would behoove all radio concerns to keep an eye on how this situation develops over the course of 2010.

Image: Arbitron Logo / Fair Use: reporting

Canadian Women, Sports Radio, and the PPM

October 12, 2009

canadaThere’s been all kinds of controversy about the Portable People Meter (PPM) introduced by Arbitron. Numerous challenges have been levied against it and its accuracy, while many others have supported its methodology and heralded it as the next clear step in harvesting audience metrics. Like most things in life, I would be willing to bet that reality falls somewhere in between.

BBM Canada, basically the equivalent of Arbitron north of our borders, just released their first round of PPM data and some interesting aspects of the system have come to light. You see, the PPM data shows a huge upswing in the number of female listeners tuning in to sports radio.

The Globe and Mail‘s Bruce Dowbiggin looks at the effect:

Why the sudden surge in female numbers for sports-talk formats? As opposed to the traditional diary methods of the past (which were often filled in after the fact by a single listener), PPMs record everyone in the vicinity of a radio or TV signal. So wives and girlfriends within earshot of sports-radio shows are now being lumped into the raw data.

“It was a factor of what I call aspirational tuning,” [David] Bray [senior vice president at Hennessy & Bray Communications] said. “Women filling in the diaries just felt better about recording CBC or light rock instead of a sports station. Now they can’t self-edit themselves with the PPMs.”

I find this extremely interesting. PPM measures your ambient soundscape, including radio that you might “tune out” in the background. This creates a far more complete image of what a person is exposed to over the course of their average day. How much of it actually registers, or registers only on a subconscious level, is impossible to say at this point. I doubt a reliable measurement of that nature can actually be made.

I do think it is important to have a window into the audioscape of our listeners, even something you tune out can make an impression after repeat exposure.  It is certainly something to think about.

I’m sure that the coming year or two (at least) will see a constant tug of war between Arbitron and Nielsen over what techniques of measurement are more accurate and why. Over time, competition should cause one or the other to field a truly superior product and approach. In the meantime, I advise keeping an eye on them both. Let’s see what the next level turns out to be.

Image: imuttoo / CC BY-SA 2.0

Urban and Hispanic Radio: Engaged and Exclusive!

March 19, 2009


Radio One regional VP Doug Abernathy is a veteran.  He’d seen firsthand the casualties sustained at the ratings level when his leading Houston-based radio stations dropped like rocks, when he converted from the old-fashioned diary method to the Portable People Meter (PPM). That was in June of last year.

In the intervening year the stations in question, Urban Adult Contemporary KMJQ-FM and Urban KBXX-FM, have been working hard to adjust their strategies based on the new ratings technology. Their course has been educational, and surprising.

Barry Fischer, Executive VP of McGavren Guild Media, which consults with Hispanic Radio, used the PPM data to validate that, according to Fischer, Hispanic stations as a whole have delivered a total of national radio cume of 7.2 – 7.6 million. He said, “Our story is not that dramatically different. Our strategy revolves around that and selling an audience that is engaged.”

Via MediaWeek:

Abernathy declared “over” the practice of advertisers using general market stations to reach black audiences and said a huge opportunity exists “to sell the exclusivity that we always thought we had and can now demonstrate. Urban and Hispanics are the most loyal audiences and you can’t get them through other stations.”

Fischer echoed the notion saying that advertisers are better off zeroing in on a smaller, more engaged audience. “Would you rather advertise on an urban or Hispanic stations that is culturally relevant, out in the community doing events that engage that audience or on a general market station that doesn’t?”

I find it interesting that this mirrors the approach many people take while using the Internet for posting content — aiming for high impact, narrower markets (while the conventional wisdom of the web, that no matter how narrow the niche there is an audience, is not quite as extreme in the world of traditional broadcast). Of course, there is the pesky little fact that radio’s evolution dictates being on the net…

Photo courtesy of Aoife city womanchile

Arbitron and Maryland AG Reach Accord

February 9, 2009


That’s right. Arbitron has reached an agreement with the Maryland Attorney General’s office about changes in the way that they sample their data using the relatively new Portable People Meter (PPM).  The particulars of this agreement echo those already reached with the Attorney Generals of New York and New Jersey.

Basically, the methodology used for picking who will use the PPM will be shifting. Instead of predominantly telephone number-based sampling, Arbitron has agreed to continually increasing percentage of those sampled to be picked by address. As someone who has only a cell phone, not a landline, I appreciate the logic of the new approach. I would say that a minimum of 50% of my social circle no longer have landlines either. (Besides, I can’t pick up radio on a landline.)

Via Radio Ink:

“The company’s long-standing continuous improvement programs are a powerful framework for enhancing our Portable People Meter radio ratings services,” said Arbitron President/CEO Michael Skarzynski. “This agreement with the Maryland Attorney General further indicates that Arbitron is proceeding along the appropriate course as we commercialize PPM in the top radio markets.”

Like any new system, it will take awhile for the PPM to find its equilibrium. Once you start with practical application of any device, there is always a shakedown period during which adjustments of this nature are made. I see it as a simple, logical and necessary part of the process. All in all, good news. Especially with the PPM due to be commercialized in Baltimore, MD, this coming October.

Photo courtesy of The Truth ABout…, used under its Creative Commons license

PPM Data: It’s All About the Urban and Spanish Language Stations!

October 8, 2008

Last Monday, Arbitron released the Portable People Meter (PPM) findings for September. The findings are not something I personally find surprising. They validate a trend I have observed for decades: Urban and Spanish Language programming are BIG!

The PPM findings show African-Americans or Spanish-Dominant Hispanics have the highest listening numbers of all the groups measured across the new PPM radio market.

  • New York: Steve Harvey on WBLS-FM ties for Number One among Persons 25-54 in a.m. drive
  • Chicago: “Piolin por La Manana” on WOJO-FM is Number One among Persons 18-34 in a.m. drive
  • Riverside-San Bernardino: KLYY-FM Spanish Adult Hits station is Number One (Persons 25-54)
  • San Francisco: KMEL-FM Hip-Hop/R&B station is Number One (Persons 18-34)

(Details are available on MarketWatch here.)

As someone who watched hip-hop take its first steps into the mainstream back in the 1980s, I cannot say I’m surprised in the least. Every day we step further away from the mono-cultural monolith of past programming.

Photo courtesy of roland, used under its Creative Commons license

CBS Radio: Better Ratings and Confident Advertisers

February 28, 2008

As format changes at CBS Radio stations have improved ratings, the division’s CEO says the response from advertisers has also been positive. David Wilkerson of MarketWatch reports:

“Anytime you see a surge in ratings, the advertisers gain a lot of confidence in those stations,” said Dan Mason in a telephone interview from New York. Mason returned to the helm at CBS Radio last spring after leading the unit from 1995 to 2002.

As reported last month, fall 2007 ratings at CBS Radio’s140 stations rose by more than 6% over the same period a year earlier among listeners 12 and older, according to the Arbitron research firm. At 14 stations that have switched formats or made other significant changes in programming since the beginning of last year, 12-plus ratings have risen by a combined 29%.The figure reflects increases of 80% at WWFS-FM in New York, 76% at New York’s WCBS-FM and 50% at KFRC-FM in San Francisco.

Mason admits that the weakening American economy could have unpredictable effects of both his company and on the radio industry as a whole, but he also points out the medium’s ability to weather recessions. That strength is based on the fact that while radio advertising is less costly than most other forms of mass media, it still has the ears of 95% of the U.S. populace. Inexpensive delivery to a large market segment is, of course, quite attractive to advertisers.

Upon his return to CBS Mason took stock of things and developed a three point plan:

  • Replacing the “Don Imus in the Morning” show on WFAN-AM with “Boomer and Carlton in the Morning,” a show which scored higher with Arbitron among the 25-54 male demographic than Imus had.
  • The phasing out of Free-FM, a talk radio format geared towards rock music fans that never captured the public imagination.
  • Bringing solid, long standing CBS brands (WCBS-FM, B94 in Pittsburgh, and KFRC in San Franciso) back to the airwaves, restoring their beloved original formats.

The numbers seem to support his efforts.

Mason believes that accurate measurement of radio audiences is a crucial part of maintaining the rate of progress he has so far achieved. Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile may remember the piece I wrote about the Portable People Meter. Mason is a fan of that little device and believes it is responsible for newly accurate audience measurement, a metric that will help fuel further growth. He cites the fact that five stations in New York were logged as reaching 6 million people according to the diary method, but PPM statistics report roughly twice that number.

A 29% increase in the 12 and up demographic is no small thing.

Photo courtesy of punkjr, used according to this Creative Commons license

The “Portable People Meter” Promises Greater Accuracy in Radio Ratings

January 23, 2008

In the cities of Houston, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Arbitron has been test driving a new electronic ratings system called The Portable People Meter. The system is poised to launch in 14 American cities, according to an announcement today by broadcaster Entercom Communications Corp.

Wikipedia gives us a concise description of how the system works:

The Portable People Meter (sometimes mistakenly “Personal People Meter”) or PPM, is a device developed by Arbitron to measure how many people are listening (or at least exposed) to individual radio stations and television stations, including cable TV. The PPM is worn like a pager, and detects hidden audio tones within a station or network’s audio stream, logging each time it finds such a signal. It has proved to be much more accurate than the old handwritten logs or wired meters, and is immune to forgetful test subjects.

This a huge step forward from the pen and paper approach that has been used in the radio industry since the 1960s. Until recently, ratings services would pay listeners to keep a hand-written log of what they listen to — a process that is open to bias and misreporting. Finally, a more objective means of gathering data is on the horizon.

Steve Knopper at Wired Magazine applauds the advance in technology:

Now, with the introduction of its Portable People Meter, the company [Arbitron] is on the verge of a radical leap into the present. The BlackBerry-sized gadget clips to listeners’ clothing, eliminating the log. Participating broadcasts are encoded with an inaudible ID code, which is picked up by a sensor in the device — whether you’re bopping to Kylie Minogue in your car or swaying to Air Supply in the produce aisle. “Your only job is to carry it,” says Arbitron’s Thom Mocarsky. “And we know when you do.”

After five years of testing, the system was rolled out in New York and Houston this summer. It’ll go nationwide by 2010. Eventually Arbitron will have 70,000 deployed, all but banishing survey bias from the ratings. All this is good news for Aerosmith fans. Rock stations have been losing ground to hip hop, Spanish, and talk, but they score high on the People Meter.

PPM has the potential to rewrite some basic assumptions about listening habits and the impact of commercials. As the sample group expands to more cities there should be a lot of useful data generated. Take a look at the current cities listed on Arbitron’s PPM page, including lists of participating stations, technical briefings and a wide variety of additional data:

One reason advertising has gravitated to the Internet is not that it’s more effective than broadcast advertising but that it’s more trackable. If radio is reaching consumers, and no one can document it, ad sales will be lost. This technology should make it easier to quantify the reach of broadcast radio, enabling ad sales reps to approach accounts with the confidence of accurate tracking.