Group PD's embrace PPM


“I can’t wait. Atlanta is our first market,” said Lincoln Financial Media VP of Programming and Operations John Dimick as he spoke of Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) on a panel with other group PDs at the NAB Radio Show in Austin. “I think the listener wins,” said Greg Strassell, who has already been dealing with PPM data from multiple markets as Sr. VP of Programming at CBS Radio. What the group PD panelists like most about the new ratings system is being able to quickly find out whether programming changes have worked or not, rather than having to wait many months for the next book.

With so much data available so quickly, Dimick is concerned, though, that some PDs might jump to conclusions too quickly. He indicated that he plans to wait for at least eight weeks of PPM data before making any programming changes.

The PDs were gung ho on being judged on actual listening, rather than on how well they got people to remember their call letters and write them in a diary. Strassell noted that a station he had always thought was pretty well programmed, but didn’t have a budget for much promotion, saw a substantial jump in ratings under the first PPM data in San Francisco. He didn’t identify the station, but it presumably is not one that he oversees at CBS.

Strassell noted that in the past two weeks, some HD2 and even HD3 stations have begun to appear in PPM data – not enough yet to meet minimum reporting standards for ratings, but those stations in specialty niche formats are beginning to be noticed by the public. “We gotta step it up,” he said of putting good content on the new digital stations.

The only negative comment about PPM came from Jose Santos, VP of Programming at Border Media Partners. BMP doesn’t face PPM in its markets soon, but Santos also consults some stations in larger markets and he worries about the small number of Spanish speaking panelists in markets with small Hispanic populations. “It’s just very scary now for Spanish radio on PPM,” he said. Even so, Santos said he likes the technology and just wishes the panels were bigger.

Yes, radio now has lots of new competitors for listening and revenues have been flat for a while, but Pat Paxton, Sr. VP of Programming for Entercom Communications said radio still makes hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars. “I don’t buy into the negativity,” Paxton said.

Dimick pointed to the involvement of radio stations in their local communities and compared that to the new media competitors. “When was the last time Pandora sent a bottle of water to anyone in a hurricane?” he asked.

RBR/TVBR observation: Suggestion to Arbitron: Stop talking and trying to PR PPM as this is not working. Let the PD’s do the talking for you as they are in the field working with it and can answer the real questions broadcasters have on how PPM works and its value.