To that end, Cumulus has issued a request for proposals today, with May 14th as the deadline for response.
Arbitron is free to submit a proposal, but Cumulus COO John Dickey told RBR he is not interested in renewing the diary service, even at a lower price. “If it were free, I don’t want to use the product,” he said. Cumulus is launching this RFP process on its own, but Dickey says he’s talked with other small and medium market owners and several are interested in the idea as well. With stations in some 54 markets 100+, Cumulus figures its business alone is enough to get potential vendors interested.
The RFP doesn’t specify any one methodology, but says there must be two components: 1) Ratings/Qualitative Data; and 2) Software for reporting, analyzing and presenting the data.
Dickey told RBR/TVBR that diary-based estimates of AQH listenership isn’t the way radio should be measured in those 100+ markets. “We don’t feel that we should be held to a different standard of measuring what we bring to a business owner versus what newspaper, television, direct mail, yellow pages, etcetera bring to a business owner,” he said, noting that those others receive far more ad spending than radio. “All of those other investment decisions of those other media are based upon a very simple unit of measurement, which is reach,” Dickey explained.
While Cumulus is insisting on a change of direction, it is also insisting on accountability. “The vendor must design and execute the research in accordance with Media Ratings Council (MRC) standards for accreditation. Although MRC accreditation will not be required at the outset, the vendor must pledge its intent to secure accreditation in a reasonable time frame and maintain it for the life of the service,” Cumulus said in announcing the RFP.
Cumulus will continue to be an Arbitron client in larger markets. Indeed, Cumulus Media Partners, the large market partnership managed by Cumulus Media and partly owned by it, operates in several Top 50 markets which have or are scheduled to receive Portable People Meter (PPM) measurement. “We’re very supportive of electronic measurement,” said Dickey, but he noted that there are no plans to take PPM to the smaller markets where his company has so many stations.
RBR/TVBR observation: No doubt a number of potential vendors will request a copy of the RFP. The real question is: How many will decide it is worthwhile to draw up a proposal? Cumulus has set an aggressive timetable. Proposals are due May 14th and the winner is supposed to commence market measurement on August 15th, with the first data publication due October 15th. How many companies who do audience research in other media will find the small market radio opportunity attractive? Can Eastlan, which already competes with Arbitron for small market business, come up with a plan to make its service win MRC accreditation? Right now there are more questions than answers.