Small market ratings debate continues


Ferguson back to Arbitron

I read Arbitron Sr. VP Thom Mocarsky’s comments (11/15/07 RBR #224) about the issues we’ve had with Arbitron in Northern Michigan with great interest.  His response was, in short, pure double speak.  The central issue is Arbitron has a responsibility to insure the purity of its data sample and provide software that works properly.  Stations already fill out a Facilities Form and return it to Arbitron prior to each survey.  These forms are full of data specific to each station in each unique market.  The addition of a database for employee addresses and phone numbers would not be an undue burden and since employee names would be omitted the privacy issue would be non-existent.  We manage contact databases every day and a simple import and purge function by Arbitron against their contact lists would complete the task.  Arbitron’s current system of outsourced telemarketers asking if people work in the media has, regrettably, proven to be insufficient.

Mr. Mocarsky’s statement that "the sampling rate is so high in Traverse City" is truly laughable.  When three diaries were thrown out and the book reissued in Traverse City, WSRT/WSRJ went from a .6 rating in Persons 12+ to a .4 rating – a drop of 33%!   In our Female target demos, the ratings dropped over 21%.  When ratings-driven revenue accounts for 40 to 45% of a stations total sales, the value of three little diaries in our size market is overwhelming.  The remarkable honesty of the majority of media people is outweighed by Arbitron’s obligation to provide reliable ratings data that both buyers and sellers can use with confidence. 

The "warning on the front page" of Summary Data software is nothing more than a legal disclaimer and has little or no effect on its use.  Averaging the averages yields incorrect data – period.  Based on our insistence, Arbitron did issue a "Service Advisory" to help make agencies aware of the problem.  As you might imagine, when we brought it to buyers’ attention the reactions ranged from minor irritation to "don’t tell me how to do my job!"  Since 2005, "averaging the averages" has cost our company nearly as much as we have paid Arbitron – and it was business we deserved had the software functioned properly.  This is happening to someone in every Condensed Market and it’s just plain wrong.  Arbitron has scheduled a conference call with me for Monday afternoon(11/19/07) at 3 PM.  It should be an interesting conversation. 

Charlie Ferguson
Northern Broadcast, Inc.
General Manager