Arbitron's current problems


Problems with the big markets and PPM aren’t their only problems – there’s big trouble in the Condensed Markets too.  In September we got taken to the woodshed because diaries were returned from the household of two of our employees in the Spring 2007 survey.  Since then, Arbitron has sent invitations to two of our employee households inviting them to participate in the Fall survey.  Both employees reported it to me and declined per Arbitron’s – and our Corporate Policy.  When the mail came in on Monday morning, November 12th I was absolutely shocked to receive an invitation to participate in the Fall 2007 Arbitron Survey – because it was addressed to "RESIDENT" at our business office address.  Now it’s time to ask some serious questions!  If my staff has gotten three separate invitations to fill out diaries, how many of my competitors have received them as well?  What if they didn’t turn down the opportunity?  We can’t be the only stations whose staff is being contacted can we?  Arbitron has a real responsibility to insure the integrity of the ratings and that radio station/company employees don’t participate in the survey – but the opposite would appear to be happening.

Their troubles don’t stop there.  The Small Market Initiative is a disaster in progress.  The idea is to average two books to "control the bounce" in Condensed Markets.  We found a huge problem with their secondary providers like SmartPlus that use "Summary Data."  Buyers at agencies are used to pulling two-book averages for Standard Markets.  When they get to Condensed Markets they continue to pull two-book reports when the single book option in the software is already averaged.  The result is double-counting the oldest sample – and rounding the numbers twice!  This caused several of our competitors to show a full rating point higher and cost us literally thousands of dollars in lost business.  If your stations are in a Condensed Market, you may have been on the short end of the same stick.  In our opinion, Arbitron has a responsibility to make sure that buyers and sellers are looking at the same numbers.  We need this consistency to avoid the battles between buyer and sellers that are happening every day in Condensed Markets.

Instead of just sitting back and complaining about it, I’m on the ballot for the Arbitron Advisory Council for the lone seat for Condensed Markets and want to see these issues addressed.  There are solutions for the Condensed Markets, and we’re paying Arbitron a ton of money every year to get it right.  If your stations are in a Condensed Market, it’s time to start asking for action!

Charlie Ferguson
Northern Broadcast, Inc.
General Manager