More reaction to the PPM restart


Arbitron Radio Advisory Committee (RAC) Chairman Chuck DuCoty says the big issue is not accreditation, but that PPM must be right – and in his view the main concern is still sample size. Saga CEO Ed Christian warns that Arbitron should not “rush headlong back into an unproven technique and a methodology with unanswered questions.”

Arbitron spokesman Thom Mocarsky, meanwhile, responds to the worries of Kathy Crawford (6/13/08 RBR #116) and assures broadcasters that the MRC audits for all eight new markets will be complete before they go currency with the September data.

“We are pleased with this announcement and remain confident that electronic measurement is the future. We are also confident that Arbitron, as it did with diary methodology, will move toward MRC accreditation in a timely manner,” said Dan Mason, CBS Radio CEO, who has been a vocal advocate for rolling out PPM as quickly as possible.

Ed Christian, CEO of Saga Communications, had taken a quite different stance and his was one of the three radio groups buying ads calling for the PPM rollout to remain on hold until the system wins Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation in at least one market for the methodology now in use, which is different from the lone accredited market, Houston. He quoted both Keats and the Bible in making his case to RBR/TVBR.

“Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.” – John Keats (1795 – 1821)

“Arbitron should heed the words of John Keats rather than rush headlong back into an unproven technique and a methodology with unanswered questions. Time, reflection, diligence, and the honest recognition of problems leads to success. Or, put otherwise, Pride (and monetary consideration) cometh before the fall,” Christian said. The latter is a twist on Proverbs 16:18: “ Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

RAC Chair Ducoty, COO of NRG Media, noted that the Council never asked Arbitron to stop the rollout, which it did last November at the behest of major group owners (11/27/07 RBR #230), nor did it request the restart – only that the ratings company keep it apprised of what criteria it would use for deciding to go with a retart and “keep us in the loop, which they have done,” he said.

“Frankly, our position is exactly as it has been. We want PPM to be right – and an accepted currency that both sides in the buy-sell equation can have confidence in,” DuCoty. On that point, he said, Arbitron and the RAC agree. “What we don’t always agree on is what ‘right’ might look like and we will continue to push them hard on the issues we believe are critical in getting the process right,” he said.

DuCoty says what it really comes down to, for diary as well as PPM, is sample. Both total sample and proportional distribution of the sample. “Get the sample right and let’s have enough of it that we have confidence in it,” he said. DuCoty and the RAC don’t think there is enough sample for PPM in Philadelphia or New York “and we want to see a better distribution of the sample. To that end, they are still pressing Arbitron to reassign the meters assigned to the 6-11 demo to 12+.

The RAC had never insisted on MRC accreditation as being necessary for a rollout restart, but that Arbitron should continue to aggressively push for accreditation. “I don’t think – this is my opinion – I don’t think that MRC accreditation will necessarily address the problems I think are of the most concern. That comes back to sample size,” DuCoty said.

RBR/TVBR observation: Just like talk radio, the phone lines are open – except in this case it’s email. Was Arbitron right to go ahead with the restart? Is accreditation by MRC needed before ads should be bought and sold based on PPM? Or do you have other concerns? We’re waiting to hear from you at [email protected]