Arbitron gung-ho on PPM rollout


Los Angeles stations got their first look at pre-currency PPM data yesterday, with Arbitron executives declaring in their monthly client/press call that the company is hitting its targets, including the best 18-34 demo performance to date. As with previous markets, most LA stations posted much higher Cumes under PPM. KIIS-FM led with a Cume of 3.5 million vs. 2 million for diary measurement. See the chart below for 10 LA stations who all had weekly Cumes of well over 1.5 million with PPM.

Yesterday’s call was timed to precede by just a few hours the beginning of the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council (RAC) meeting in Teton Village, WY (not yet on the schedule for PPM measurement) running through Friday. Among other things, the RAC will be looking for a response from Arbitron on a pending request to forget about 6-11 year-old PPM panelists and reallocate those meters to demos that broadcasters care about.

With summer vacations coming into play, Arbitron says it has beefed up its PPM panels in all markets to ensure that in-tab rates don’t fall below the company’s benchmarks. To that end, LA is already above the 100 DDI (Designated Delivery Index) for most demos. The total 6+ panel is at a DDI of 112. Arbitron declared “strong” sample metrics in LA for the most problematic demo, 18-34. Persons 18-34 is at 96, Men 92, Women 99, Black 96, Hispanic 99 and Other 90. The ethnic breakout in LA is interesting compared to other markets. The target, which would produce a 100 DDI for the Black 18-34, is only 42 panelists, while the average daily in-tab was 40. The target for Hispanic 18-34 is 347 and the average daily in-tab of 345 produced that 99 DDI.

Arbitron was asked for an update on its efforts to win Media Rating Council accreditation in the “Radio First” markets (everywhere post-Houston), but there wasn’t much to report publicly about the secretive MRC process. Chief Research Officer Bob Patchen said Arbitron is working with MRC on its program for improving certain PPM metrics, such as boosting younger demo in-tab rates to be closer to those of older demos, and he said conversations are “going well.” The process to review the Philadelphia audit is underway and the audits of New York and other markets being rolled out in September are in the field and due to be delivered to the MRC before PPM becomes currency in those markets.

RBR/TVBR observation: It won’t be long now. The three largest US radio markets will switch from diaries to PPM. And the timing couldn’t be worse. Today’s lead story is about yet another monthly plunge in radio revenues. And, as we’ve known for some time, New York and Los Angeles have been particularly problematic ad markets. So the adjustment to PPM is likely to be blamed for making a bad situation worse in the short-run – not to mention increasing costs for station clients at a time when profits are shrinking. The argument is that, in the long run, radio would have been hurt even more by not making the switch to electronic measurement. But it’s hard to focus on the long-term when managers are busy trying to put out fires burning now.