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Jim Carnegie, Editor & Publisher

The PPM debate grows more heated

Open letter to Dave Paulus, President/GM, Saga Communications, Norfolk, VA (12/3/07 RBR #234)

Hey Dave...

If your genius of a boss, Steve Goldstein, had paid attention to the people that now look like psychics concerning the pitfalls of what was going on with PPM...if your boss had worked to find out all the details and correct the problems, instead of pushing PPM, with a half dozen others geniuses who will bear this rollout on their legacy, we would not have the embarrassment in the trades you see today. If you cannot name the half dozen names outside of Arbitron who brought this failure on the Industry, shame on you. I am sure your boss appreciates you covering his butt, but the blame lays squarely on his and the laps of those who pushed a system on broadcasting without making sure Arbitron could actually deliver what it claimed. The PPM was touted to have a better reliability than the diary - not worse - and reliability starts with the sample. If the sample is worse than the diary, the results will be worse than the diary. Radio will not and should not increase their expense to Arbitron from roughly 2% of billing to roughly 4% of billing for a service that is broken on day one. If the sample is bad, nothing else matters. As simplistic as it sounds, Arbitron needs to spend whatever it takes to fix the sample and that is most likely what you will see the AAC tell Arbitron this week. Even one of PPM's staunchest proponents, WBEB's Jerry Lee, said as much last week. With the sample fixed and other housekeeping items that need to be cleaned up, the MRC can accredit the methodology as well as all current and future markets so we can move on with a process that won't embarrass radio again. Hopefully the Industry will again learn the lesson if a half dozen lemmings jump off the cliff, the rest of the Industry won't follow next time until they get the whole story (are iBiquity and Peter Ferrara listening?).

And in response to Mr. Sabo, who stated "These people screamed for years that the diary was inaccurate. Arbitron disclaims that the diary results are "an opinion of estimates" --a guess! The PPM is the best advance in the history of radio since the advent of top 40."

So, let's look at the Top 40's in Philadelphia, a market rich in Top 40 History among 18-34 in Diary and PPM - Fall 2005 to October 2007.

As bad as the diary was, it's largest spread between the lowest and highest possible rating was only slightly more than double (at night) and, in prime dayparts, the average spread between the lowest and highest possible number was around 50%. However, in PPM the average spread was more than double!

* For example:

o In the Oct 05 diary book ... in Morning Drive WIOQ had a 1.8, which (at the 90% confidence level) could have been as low as a 1.4 or as high as a 2.2, which is a spread of 57%.

o In the Oct 07 PPM book ... in Morning Drive WIOQ had a .6, which (at the 90% confidence level) could have been as low as a .3 or as high as a .9, which is a spread of 200%, which is nearly four times greater standard error than the diary book.

To sum it up, If you are seeing this for the first time, shame on you. If you are embarrassed by what you have been reading in the press for the last 5 months, shame on you also - the information has been out there - you just didn't take the time you should have to find out about this system and change it before it became an Industry embarrassment.

Bottom line, let's get Arbitron to get the sample fixed for all the demos in all Markets and get ALL markets MRC ACCREDITED prior to rollout, as well as double checking the data before it goes out the door. Then, and only then we will have no more embarrassing press stories and we can instead show the world we have "accountability" in place for Broadcasters and Advertisers.

Randy Kabrich

Radio Business Report
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