Bob Neil: 'Change PPM Recruitment M.O. Or We May Bolt'
November 7, 2007 at 10:43 AM (PT)
One day after making pointed criticisms about ARBITRON's PPM methodology in its quarterly conference call, COX RADIO CEO BOB NEIL took the gloves off in an exclusive interview with ALL ACCESS and gave ARBITRON both barrels.
Confirming reports that the ratings firm's different methods of recruitment in HOUSTON and PHILADELPHIA are detrimental to generating viable data, NEIL effectively demanded that ARBITRON solve these issues, or COX --and possible radio in general -- will be forced to look to other ratings alternatives, including doing it themselves.
Broadcasters may need to own and start their own ratings service, as they do in a number of other countries
At issue is the way ARBITRON has recruited its PPM panels in HOUSTON and PHILDELPHIA. Word had it that ARBITRON basically went door to door to generate its sample; the data generated from that effort has been accredited by the MRC. However, that's a costly way to building a sample, so ARBITRON resorted to using a phone center to recruit the PHILADELPHIA panel. The result, according to various sources: much lower 18-35 and 18-44 sample.
"All About Money"
"The recruiting is different," NEIL asserted "So, the PHILLY sample is having more problems, and that will translate to the rest of the roll out markets. As soon as ARBITRON can get this accredited, they will move HOUSTON to telephone-based recruiting. This is all about money. As you can imagine, it’s more expensive to recruit door-to-door than only using the telephone. Of course, fewer and fewer people answer telephones these days. This is a huge issue, and has kind of been swept under the rug. ARBITRON sold us PPM based on the HOUSTON method and now that it’s too expense, they want it to change."
NEIL expressed considerable concern for phone-based recruitment in the upcoming major markets. "It’s troubling that PHILLY has been live since JANUARY and they still can't get the method there accredited," he said. "That means NEW YORK, LONG ISLAND, LOS ANGELES and CHICAGO buyers will be placing millions in business of an unaccredited service. Arbitron only does the 'right thing' when they are forced to. We're the customers and we must demand good research. They have no history of doing the right thing for the sake of it."
The challenge for COX -- and all radio groups, for that matter -- is what recourse they now have. Practically every group has signed with PPM, and MEDIA AUDIT/IPSOS' ratings service is still in development. "We're hopeful that either MEDIA AUDIT will come up with a superior product in the next few years, or broadcasters may need to own and start their own ratings service, as they do in a number of other countries."
When briefed on BOB NEIL's comments, ARBITRON SVP Press & Investor Relations THOM MOCARSKY said that all of the issues raised would be discussed at length in ARIBTRON's conference call this FRIDAY.