Having the Guts to Confront the Lies

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Traditional radio is dying. How often have we heard that? How many seemingly sincere people say that while intelligent people nod in agreement?


Of course, the factual evidence says otherwise. We’ve recounted the results of numerous studies and listening surveys here, here, here, here, here, here, and elsewhere. Yet new-media true believers simply dismiss all this evidence, arguing (without any proof of their own) that no one listens to radio anymore.

When it comes to the battle between facts and beliefs, beliefs often win. Behavioral research shows that even in the face of overwhelming factual proof to the contrary, many people will continue to hold fast to their misguided beliefs.

Unfortunately, the willingness to accept radio’s demise as truth is aided by those who’s financial interests line up with the lie. There’s a lot more money to be made on the “radio is dead” side.

Television fights a similar battle. New-media pundits dismiss over-the-air TV declaring (contrary to all evidence) that people don’t watch traditional television anymore.

The difference is that while radio seems to suffer from a lack of confidence problem and takes the abuse quietly, television more often pushes back. The latest example is the response to a Forrester forecast. Forrester is a “research” company that peddles pricey studies that often have an upbeat new-media theme.

Advertising Age reports that after Forrester analyst David Cooperstein predicted a decline in television advertising at the recent Association of National Advertisers, CBS Corp. Chief Research Officer David Poltrack rose to challenge the prediction. According to Adage, here’s what Poltrack said:

This research says that advertisers are actually pulling money out of television. It is not true. In 2006 when you published this result, Forrester predicted, that 5% to 10% of advertising dollars would be taken out of television in 2007. Television advertising actually went up 4% in 2007. And since 2007, despite the recession, television has increased its share of advertising dollars two full percentage points. So advertisers are spending more of their money on television, not less.

Another account of the moment better conveys Poltrack’s frustration:

He was particularly set off by advertisers’ claim (in the Forrester study) that only 41 percent of their media budgets went to TV last year versus 58 percent in a 2008 survey. Poltrack called those figures here “bullsh*t numbers.” He added, “For that to happen, if advertising dollars during the recession went down 10 percent, TV advertising would have been down 30 percent. Everyone knows that didn’t happen.”

A review of Forrester predictions shows a pattern of understating radio and televisions strengths while predicting broad and rapid embracing of new media. The media dutifully print the Forrester predictions without bothering to look back to see how accurate their previous predictions were. (Not very.)

We raised questions about Forrester’s research in August of last year here. The company asserted listening levels were dropping precipitously and in 2009 were less than 7 hours per week. Arbitron’s PPM listening estimate was 12 hours, their diary based estimate was even higher, and both were at the low end of other estimates.

Why isn’t the NAB out front with a truth squad? Where’s the RAB? How about Arbitron supporting radio rather than just bleeding it?

Radio needs people like David Poltrack who are willing to call “bullsh*t” what it is.

— Glenda Shrader Bos & Richard Harker of Harker Research


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.