Advisory Council backs PPM, but wants it fixed


Arbitron has agreed to tighten its money-back guarantee for its Portable People Meter (PPM) sample, moving to an 80% guarantee for the 18-54 target, rather than the previously announced guarantee of 90% of the 6+ target. That new guarantee was announced yesterday as the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council (RAC) wrapped up three days of meetings in Atlanta – sessions that outgoing RAC Chairman Steve Sinicropi of Cox Radio said had a much higher stress level than any previous meeting because there were so many issues to iron out. But he also said it was “pretty productive” and incoming Chairman Chuck DuCoty of NRG Media, pictured, read reporters a lengthy statement on the progress made in the talks with Arbitron.

In the conference call with reporters, a first for the RAC (which is usually less formal), DuCoty stressed that the RAC still supports the continued rollout of PPM while Arbitron works on winning Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation. And he said the RAC “is supportive of the Philadelphia and Houston PPM measurement currently in the market” and has been assured by Arbitron that the ratings company will work to address concerns about sample performance and accreditation in those markets. Houston is MRC accredited, but not Philadelphia. When asked by RBR about the MRC accreditation, DuCoty admitted to some frustration with the secretive nature of the MRC process, so the RAC doesn’t know what the holdup is in Philly. “We think that the accreditation process is important. We are pushing them to continue that process. They’re committed to that process,” DuCoty said.

Most markets, though, will still have diaries, not PPM, for many years to come. The RAC applauded Arbitron for naming Tom O’Sullivan as point person (“Diary Czar”) for all diary measurement “as a clear sign that diary measurement remains a priority for the short- and the long-term.”

|Read the RAC statement.|
We have just concluded three days of intense and productive meetings with Arbitron representatives. 
Over the past few weeks the industry has expressed firm support for electronic measurement and PPM for radio. The industry has made it clear that Arbitron needs to make significant improvements in the PPM sampling process and continue to improve diary measurement to ensure buyer and seller confidence in audience estimates for all stations and all audience targets in all markets.

The Advisory Council has made significant progress in the following areas: 

* 18-54 guarantee – As a first and immediate step, the Council welcomes Arbitron’s commitment to narrow the guarantee of PPM sample performance proportionality from Persons 6+ to Persons 18-54, and to set the initial minimum level at 80%.

* Sample improvement metrics by January 18, 2008 – We look forward to seeing Arbitron’s plans to raise this performance metric as they pursue improvements in core sampling units, especially within 18-34, African-American and Hispanic. We understand Arbitron’s need to take additional time to work through very complex issues regarding PPM sampling performance in specific age, sex and ethnic targets. We are encouraged that Arbitron has committed to providing the Council with their specific responses to these important questions, including sample benchmarks for selling demographics, by January 18th 2008.

* 12+ Recalibration – Arbitron acknowledged the Council’s desire to recalibrate the current 6+ PPM sample universe to Persons 12+. Arbitron requested the opportunity to discuss this proposal with the rest of the industry and provide the Council with options on how to fulfill this request. Arbitron has committed to follow-up with the council by the end of 1st quarter 2008.

*Pursue MRC accreditation but don’t wait – The Council supports Arbitron’s plans to continue to pursue and then maintain MRC accreditation in all commercialized PPM markets without slowing the PPM rollout process.

* Diary Czar – The Council welcomes Arbitron’s appointment of Tom O’Sullivan as point person for all diary measurement as a clear sign that diary measurement remains a priority for the short- and the long-term.

* Cell phone only – The Council is pleased that Arbitron has prioritized including cell-phone-only households in PPM measurements and requests that Arbitron extend their plans for measuring cell-phone-only households in 2008 to diary markets as well as PPM markets.
The Advisory Council is supportive of the Philadelphia and Houston PPM measurement currently in the market and has been assured by Arbitron that they will continue to improve those individual services as they address the issues above.

While we feel that a great deal of progress was made during the three days of the Atlanta meetings, the Council and Arbitron agree that much more needs to be accomplished in the next nine months and beyond.  We encourage the industry to work together and engage in constructive dialogue that will bring PPM into the radio marketplace in a positive manner that will benefit the entire industry as a whole.

The Arbitron Radio Advisory Council

December 5, 2007

RBR observation: The RAC and Arbitron’s biggest station group clients are clearly holding the company’s feet to the fire. Although there have been lots of complaints and concerns about PPM, the bottom line is that the radio companies have a lot of revenues at stake and they want PPM to work. They want Arbitron to deliver what was promised, but they also know that electronic measurement is vital to radio’s future. This week’s meetings may have been heated, but the March 2008 RAC meeting in Orlando will be even more heated if substantial progress isn’t made by that time.