Arbitron CEO Steve Morris disagrees with the claim by the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) that PPM in New York needs to be "fixed" (11/9/07 RBR #220), but he says Arbitron will "welcome" an independent review. Details are yet to be worked out, so NABOB Executive Director Jim Winston is waiting to see if the plan addresses the concerns of minority broadcasters. Ratings for Urban and Hispanic radio stations have dropped significantly from their former diary levels in every market where PPM has been introduced. Broadcasters who own and operate many of those stations charge that PPM is flawed and is undercounting their audiences. Arbitron insists that its PPM data is accurate, and that the ratings changes merely correct over-reporting by diarykeepers.
"While we disagree about whether New York needs to be ‘fixed’ or not – in fact, the data looks extremely good and is entirely valid for use in buying and selling, so we don’t agree with that point – I think this idea of an independent panel makes a lot of sense. The headline here is that we are welcoming an independent review of our technology," Morris told reporters in a call on Friday. He noted that the MRC has already accredited PPM in Houston, is considering data from Philadelphia and will finish gathering its New York audit data this month. Noting that there is "never a perfect measurement," Morris said Arbitron would agree to have yet another independent panel to evaluate the PPM technology. "If that group, or any independent oversight group of research professionals, can empirically establish that the PPM data is not valid in research terms, or that it is less valid than the current diary, then Arbitron will have to decide how best to address the issue. If the empirical evidence does not indicate that the PPM is not valid or less valid than the diary, then Arbitron’s responsibility as a research company and as the provider of data that advertisers and broadcasters accept as ‘currency’ for buying and selling in radio mandates that the company move forward as fast as possible," Morris said.
Winston is reserving judgment until NABOB gets the details. "It’s not just a recruitment issues, which we think is a problem," Winston told RBR, but also retention and compliance. Arbitron told RBR that NABOB’s members will be one of the constituent groups consulted on creating the independent review, which at this point is still at the concept stage. Stay tuned for further developments.
RBR/TVBR observation: Each time we see a PPM presentation from Arbitron, it seems to have more and more slides with data to show that there is no difference in how members of different ethnic groups agree to participate or carry their PPM devices once they are in a panel – but rather the only difference is in age cells, with young demos the problem, young whites, young blacks, young Hispanics, young everybody. Certainly the general trends are the same in each market as far as which formats go up and which go down as PPM supplants diaries. Is there a fatal flaw which is replicating itself in each market? Or, as Arbitron claims, is PPM just delivering more accurate data on real listening?