PPM: what should the guarantee be?


Arbitron has now instituted its guarantee for Portable People Meter in-tab delivery, promising refunds to stations if it fails to hit the target for Persons 6+ measurement in any PPM market. But that hasn’t satisfied the Radio Advisory Council (RAC), which has countered with a request that Arbitron instead guarantee in-tab delivery for Persons 18-54. RAC Chairman Steve Sinicropi of Cox Radio tells RBR that Arbitron has promised a response by November 9th, when the ratings company holds its next client call following release of monthly PPM data for Houston, Philadelphia and, for the first time, but still pre-currency, New York.  

In Friday’s monthly calls with the trade media and clients, Arbitron officials touted improvement in in-tab delivery. For the September ratings month, Philadelphia was at a DDI (Designated Delivery Index) of 101, so slightly over target, for Persons 6+. The 18-34 demo remains the problem spot, at a DDI of 57. In Houston, the DDI for Persons 6+ was still short, at 90, but was better than Philly in the 18-34 demo, at 81.

Sinicropi agreed that there has been some improvement in the two markets where PPM is now ratings currency, but he noted that for New York, which is in pre-currency mode, the same problem exists with Arbitron missing the target for 18-34 "by significant levels." According to Arbitron figures as of September 21st, the DDI for the New York market was 102 for Persons 6+, but 62 for Persons 18-34.

We learned a bit more Friday about how Arbitron is dealing with the overlapping use of both diary measurement and PPM in the New York suburbs. While the total NYC market is being measured by PPM, as are two of the embedded markets, Nassau-Suffolk, NY and Middlesex-Somerset-Union, NJ, the other local radio markets embedded in the New York Metro are still being measured by diaries. Arbitron Sr. VP Jay Guyther says there is no mixing of the two methods. There are folks in the Morristown, NJ market, for example, who carry PPM devices for the New York Metro panel. There is a completely separate set of people in the Morristown market filling out diaries for the local market’s ratings data. Despite the overlap, the ratings data is not combined.
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RBR observation: No doubt many stations would like to see Arbitron guarantee 18-34 in-tab delivery for PPM, but that seems to be too much to hope for. That demo is the one we see mentioned most often in emails from readers pertaining to PPM, but it has also long been a problem demo for Arbitron’s diary methodology – and for pretty much every company that tries to measure anything dealing with US consumers. Asking for an 18-54 guarantee is a bit of a compromise by the RAC, giving Arbitron some wiggle room but still calling for something more focused on the problem area than a broad 6+ guarantee. Now the folks at Arbitron have to do the math and figure out what it would cost them to make sure they can hit an 18-54 target in every PPM market as the new system is rolled out to all of the top 50 markets – and the risk of refunds for an occasional shortfall. The bottom line, though, is that Arbitron and its client stations all want the same thing – for PPM to properly measure radio listening in all demos, including the young ones.