Friday, April 18, 2008

Heard Here, New Ratings System?, and Bob

3 pieces of news stood out for broadcasters this week:

1. Cumulus decides to give Arbitron notice that their stations in markets outside of the top 100 will be looking for a new ratings service. They open the floor for bids that would provide a service that seems mostly concerned with getting sample sizes that would be a lot more reliable than the Arbitron model.

While it's a great idea and I looking over their request for ratings proposals its filled with lavish 'dreams' of what medium and smaller market reports could look like. Plenty of qualitative data, healthy sample sizes and the potential of avoiding recall methods (like telephone surveys and diaries use).

We saw the same show 4 years ago when Clear Channel put out a similar request and what happened. Nothing. In fact if just faded away with a few inches of coverage in the trades.

What will happen here? Unless someone steps up with a cheaper version of PPM and can somehow find a way to build a panel that includes the cell phone only world probably nothing.

There are potential systems and vendors out there that could make a run here. But, can a system be developed for the smaller markets that is profitable? It's going to take more investment to build a data collection system and healthy panels. Will medium and smaller market broadcasters be willing to pay the freight?

When you look at the way most stations use the ratings data outside of the top 100 markets I wonder if most would say - who cares. These markets are out pacing the bigger cities in revenue growth because they are built on local direct advertising and don't live in the agency driven, cost per point, and try anything on the Internet world in the bigger markets.

Still, I hope we end up with something here. At least some pressure on Arbitron to do something. The world where we have PPM in the top 50 markets and a system of diaries and weak samples in the rest of the world will only make ratings worthless outside of the PPM markets will end up hurting in the long run. More and more we are seeing national chains moving their boxes and restaurants into the smaller markets and to get them you will need some proof of your audience.
2. The Spring NAB in Vegas launches RADIO HEARD HERE. It's great to see the NAB doing something positive to unite radio. Don't know if this creative will cut through with the rather retro looking logo and the viral video pieces are rather long, boring and don't talk to the audience. We do need to communicate our real value with our huge reach, ease to develop a message and our power to build your brand in a controlled market and this campaign will help. Frankly I think we'd be better off shelving all the HD spots and spend our resources here for now.

3. Bob Pittman speaks at NAB. Look at these highlights from his address:

Radio is mobile, it’s easy to use, it has a lot of choice,” Pittman said.
Repeating comments we’d heard him use previously when talking about new
media, he said what makes a great consumer business is convenience and brand
– and “radio wins on both counts.” The one-time radio programmer noted, “I
think there are probably no better brand builders in the world than radio
programmers.” Despite all of the hype about the Internet replacing
broadcasting, Pittman, who is currently an investor in radio and TV groups
as well as new media, insisted “the Internet is not television or radio.”
People still turn to broadcasting for entertainment, while they use the
Internet to manage their lives.

Bob's always made a lot of sense when he speaks and it sounds like his address in Vegas was true to form. Thanks Bob.

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