Diary markets to get own call; Arbitron touts PPM for Urban


Arbitron Radio Advisory Council Chairman Chuck DuCoty, COO of NRG Media, announced Friday that quarterly conference calls are being planned to deal with diary issues. And, as Arbitron works to convince large market stations that their future is, indeed, PPM, clients in the top 50 markets can expect to receive a seven-page letter this week from Arbitron CEO Steve Morris detailing what has happened with electronic measurement to this point and what’s ahead.

In the past the press had been barred from hearing Arbitron’s monthly PPM client calls and only the press call was placed on the company website for subsequent review. That changed Friday. The client call, rather than the press call, has been posted in the PPM section of Arbitron’s website for reporters or anyone else to listen to.

A major focus of the call Friday was on how Urban stations have been performing in PPM markets, after initially suffering large rating declines. Radio One Houston Market Manager Doug Abernethy detailed what his staff went though as a major Urban player in the first PPM market. He said the first phase was denial, as his Urban AC dropped out of the top 10 25-54 and other stations in the Urban cluster suffered marked declines. Then, he said, there was a phase of anger, before turning to “OK, what are we going to do?” Abernathy said his staff looked at every aspect of the radio stations and made chang4es to adapt to PPM measurement. As a result, programming elements are different today and the stations are back to high ratings. Abernathy declined to reveal all of the “secret sauce” to competitors, but noted that weekly jock meetings to go over breaks has made a big difference.

Emmis Radio President Rick Cummings came on in the Q&A session to support the idea that PPM is not, as had been feared, a big threat to ethnic broadcasters, both Urban and Hispanic. His company’s big Urban stations in New York have also made changes and enhanced their ratings. “You just have to understand the measurement system,” he said.

With Arbitron tooting its own horn for consistently hitting its 80 DDI target for 25-54, Clear Channel Sr. VP/Research Jess Hanson asked whether the company was ready to raise the bar to 90. Arbitron President of Sales and Marketing Pierre Bouvard replied that the company would take a “strong look” at that after getting its next round of PPM markets up and going in September. First, though, he wants to look at results from the summer, when DDI and in-tab numbers are expected to go down as PPM panelists enjoy vacations and other leisure activities.

Read more on sample performance in PPM markets and the monthly discussion, including some fireworks, in today’s Ratings & Research section.