Cox Radio ended its holdout back in February and began encoding for Arbitron's Portable People Meter (PPM) in Houston (2/22/07 RBR #37) after PPM had gotten Media Rating Council accreditation there. Now, CEO Bob Neil has signed a five-year contract renewal for all 18 Cox markets, including PPM services scheduled to be rolled out in eight of them. Those markets include Houston, New York (Cox is in the embedded Nassau-Suffolk market), Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, San Antonio, Orlando and Jacksonville.
Neil had long been resistant to PPM, questioning various aspects of the methodology and technology. Although he has now signed a contract, he is still going to be holding Arbitron's feet to the fire. He sent RBR these comments late yesterday:
"We know no methodology is perfect, but we believe the best chance to improve it is from the inside rather than the outside. That includes the diary, which will still be 'currency' in most markets for the foreseeable future. That means making sure the sample sizes in demos and return rates in the diary markets are at levels that make the research reliable. We're paying for both methodologies and we deserve to get our money's worth in both.
MRC accreditation in Houston was the key component in our decision to encode and subscribe, and we expect that process to continue to move forward in Philadelphia and the markets beyond.
When Arbitron was 'selling' the PPM service to the radio industry, they were very confident the new technology would bring new advertisers and revenue to Radio, and that buyers would 'adjust' to the new technology by adjusting cost per point and not penalizing the industry from a rate perspective. They've been very aggressive in telling Radio that PPM would be a positive economic factor for Radio going forward.
Arbitron now faces the law of 'be careful what you wish for' because now that people are paying real money, and the data is currency, it will face more scrutiny from broadcasters and advertisers. It's not 'pretend' anymore, we're playing for real with an entire industry, and it better be right. Just as advertisers want to hold us accountable, we intend to hold Arbitron accountable for the quality of the data and their assertions about its impact on our business."