Arbitron was celebrating on Friday. For the first time, a Portable People Meter (PPM) market using the "Radio First" telephone-based panel recruitment methodology was awarded accreditation by the Media Rating Council (MRC). It wasn’t New York or Philadelphia, which went through a second round of MRC audits after being turned down for accreditation, but rather one of the newer PPM markets, Riverside-San Bernardino, CA – The Inland Empire. Houston, the only market to previously win MRC accreditation, uses an address-based recruitment methodology.
“The accreditation of the monthly PPM quarter hour radio estimates in Riverside-San Bernardino demonstrates that our ‘Radio First’ methodology, which uses a telephone-based sample frame and telephone recruitment, can deliver audience estimates that meet the standards of the Media Rating Council,” said Arbitron CEO Steve Morris. “Our goal now is to demonstrate that the sample quality initiatives we have committed to for all our PPM markets will have a continuing positive impact, just as they have had in Riverside-San Bernardino,” he added.
Arbitron plans a call with Wall Street analysts this afternoon to discuss the accreditation breakthrough and its recent PPM lawsuit settlements with the Attorneys General of New York and New Jersey.
“Any progress is appreciated,” long-time PPM critic Bob Neil, CEO of Cox Radio, told RBR/TVBR. “I think my biggest question is why they can’t seem to get it done in a major market. We need the credibility of a major market like New York or Philly being accredited, not a much smaller market. As their settlement with the NY AG makes clear, there are problems and for a product that was presented as ‘ready for prime time’ at launch, we have been through a lot of disappointments,” Neil said.
Consultant Randy Kabrich has also been an outspoken critic of PPM. “Six months ago, you could pull a 15 minute quarter hour from any day off Maximi$er under the diary method and it was MRC accredited. Today, one metric – a 4 week daypart with a specific start date and end date that no schedule is purchased on because it is not Broadcast Week based – is MRC accredited,” he noted. “Better than yesterday with no MRC Accreditation? Yes. Better than six months ago? No a giant step backwards. Wasn’t PPM supposed to allow us to see ‘minute by minute’ data, yet we have gone from MRC approval at a 15 minute level to MRC approval at a specific 28 day level, and stations are now using PPM to make specific decisions on what was done right at a specific time on a specific day. In the heavily Hispanic market, if one wants to run a Hispanic only Quarter Hour number, you can, but it is NOT MRC accredited. It was six months ago. And this only goes to prove the problems in Philadelphia and New York as they continue to go unaccredited. 2+ years in Philadelphia and not Accredited – and this proves there are problems. So much for Arbitron’s excuse that it is MRC who is slow to act. This shows that is untrue. Arbitron still has a very LONG way to go,” said Kabrich.
RBR/TVBR observation: Two down, 12 to go – at least of the PPM markets now up and running (including embedded markets). Riverside-San Bernardino, market #26, is the smallest non-imbedded market to get PPM thus far. Getting accreditation there is important, but broadcasters will feel a lot more satisfaction if and when the MRC double-checks go on the data from the Philadelphia and New York markets, where PPM panels have been in place since 2007 and are still not accredited.
MRC accreditation for a “Radio First” market proves that adopting the 100% address-based recruiting system (which includes sending people out to knock on doors in some cases) used in Houston (formulated when Nielsen was a potential joint venture partner) is not essential for Arbitron to get PPM accredited in other markets. But changes are coming in recruitment methodology. Under the settlements with the Attorneys General of New York and New Jersey, Arbitron has agreed to use address-based recruiting (but not knocking on doors) to boost participation by cell phone only households in New York and Philadelphia. That’s likely to be expanded to other PPM markets if it proves successful. Also, the company really doesn’t want multiple methodologies and eventually hopes to switch Houston out of the current expensive recruitment approach.