Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why the PPM Mess is Important to Us All

With Arbitron’s Portable People Meter coming under more and more politically-driven fire, it’s tempting for diary-market folk to think this is a good thing for the diary methodology.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Before all these unwarranted, unfounded attacks on the PPM methodology, there were myriad discussions among small and medium market operators about the impact of the new technology on diary markets: Would the PPM cripple the credibility of the diary?

The consensus was, Not really. Sophisticated advertisers and buyers will use the tools available to them. Main street advertisers will be guided by their trusted media partners—that would be you—to use survey tools better to understand their market qualitatively, not to compare radio stations quantitatively and arbitrarily.

Unfortunately, all the negative attention on the PPM affects the stature of the Arbitron brand and the credibility of everything they do. It hinders our ability to help our clients be better informed advertisers.

It also gives rise to alternatives; Nielsen comes to mind, and Eastlan, and several lesser players. Competition is not a bad thing, but competitors should build their market share on legitimate advantages, not the unwarranted perceived weakness of their counterparts.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Is It Just Me?

I watch with mounting amazement (and more than a little trepidation) as more and more politically-motivated, ignorant people and groups latch onto specious, baseless arguments that because the PPM methodology delivers results that are less kind to certain societal segments, the methodology must perforce be wrong.

My heart goes out to those so affected, but Arbitron’s PPM initiative has been perhaps the most scrutinized, researched and cross-checked methodology in the history of statistics. Is it perfect? Of course not. The results of any sample-based research is subject to statistical error. (Statisticians don’t like the term “error,” preferring the more glass-half-full “significance.” Whatever.) But it’s demonstrably closer to reality than what it supplants. And no broadcaster or statistician with whom I’ve talked disagrees.

We are going through very strange times. Truth is irrelevant. We, as a society, shrug off the most outrageous misstatements of fact. Our BS meter has pegged so much that it’s now broken. It would appear that Orwell’s 1984 has finally arrived, a mere 25 years late.

Good News, Long Overdue

The NAB and small market broadcasters deserve to congratulate themselves on a job well done on the “AM on FM” issue—and not just because of the issue itself.

Listen carefully to the pronouncements of our frenemies and you’ll hear evidence that our message is getting through: free, over-the-air broadcasters are committed to service.

Listen to FCC Commissioner McDowell, commenting on the translator issue, talking about “an opportunity to strengthen the contributions that [AM stations] make in furthering our long-standing public policy goals of localism, competition, and diversity in broadcasting.”

While the ability to fortify our AMs with FM is a great advance, I hope that what is taking hold among our regulatory masters is the mind-set that what we offer to our listeners and communities is worth protecting at all costs.