Cox Radio's Bob Neil: 'Arbitron Doesn't Get It'; Dickey, Cummings, Lee Weigh In
November 20, 2007 at 3:57 PM (PT)
ARBITRON President/CEO STEVE MORRIS' letter to LEW DICKEY, JOHN HOGAN, ALFRED LIGGINS and BOB NEIL (NET NEWS 11/19) over their demand for a correction to PPM's many issues brought swift reaction from COX RADIO President/CEO BOB NEIL. He is clearly not impressed with STEVE MORRIS' suggestion that called for another get-together with radio.
"ARBITRON doesn't get it. We don't need a meeting. We need a clear plan on how and when they plan on hitting their sample targets. The time for meetings, delay tactics and spin is over. It's about giving radio and agencies what they've paid for: Good data.
The time for meetings, delay tactics and spin is over. It's about giving radio and agencies what they've paid for: Good data.
"I've had my share of meetings with ARBITRON people over the years and each one has been a waste of time. They listen. Then they do nothing. If a slot machine takes your money and gives you nothing, you might try shaking it ... but talking to it is useless."
Lew Dickey: "We Expect Them To Fix It"
"We are very supportive of electronic measurement and accurate ratings accountability for our advertisers, to demonstrate the value of radio to our clients. We agree with the basic premise, and ARBITRON has a basic de facto monopoly on a solution on this method, so we have no choice but to get behind this system. PPM came with much fanfare and a steep price -- we are in a challenging environment and to take on a fixed expense like this a big margin compression and a tough pill to swallow.
"When not delivered as advertised -- and ARBITRON is not bashful about a big price tag -- we are in no better shape with the sample than with the diary. Fixing this is within their control and we expect them to fix it. No meetings needed, no listening tour -- just deliver the goods and make good on the integrity of the sample."
DICKEY indicated that this call to action from CUMULUS, COX, CLEAR CHANNEL and RADIO ONE is designed as a wakeup call to ARBITRON to benefit all radio broadcasters. "If it means that they are out in front of themselves rushing to market, then simply take a more measured approach. When the product is currency, we need to be able to rely on this data."
"We are paying a premium price and expect a premium product. There is a learning curve on this -- and it's steep so there are lessons to be learned with live ammo in HOUSTON, PHILADELPHIA, and now NEW YORK. They have a good idea on what it takes to implement a good sample and this is their job and we expect them to deliver consistently a proportionate and qualified sample. We are rooting for them to get this right."
Kabrich Addresses "Trade-Offs"
Consultant RANDY KABRICH jumped on the "trades-offs" mentioned in the letter. "Can STEVE refer us to exactly who in radio will verify that they've discussed these problems and trade-offs for the price? So, the trade-offs are that Male and Female 18-24 and 25-34 sample could not be hit with ARBITRON's 65% - 90% rate increases -- or better, only coming in at around 40%-60% as it has been in PHILADELPHIA, NY and LONG ISLAND.
"Rather amazing that after five years of testing and development, ARBITRON cannot deliver a viable sample, which they used as a selling point to advertising agencies and radio stations, without new 'trade-offs,' which equals more money. It's already to the point where any blind man can plainly see why they have failed to gain MRC accreditation in PHILADELPHIA and don't want to talk about it."
Cummings: "We Don't Look At This As A Sample Issue"
EMMIS President RICK CUMMINGS told ALL ACCESS, "Our reaction is very early and we don't look at this as a sample issue. We think the sample will be fine in NEW YORK, L.A. and elsewhere. We are concerned about what we need to do to perform in this new measurement system. They will get the sample correct, and we need to focus on what works and what doesn't work. We already know that under PPM, some stations will benefit and some won't, and PPM will clearly impact some great EMMIS brands. What we need to do is find out how to maximize our ratings in a PPM world."
"This gut-wrenching change is hard, and at the end of the day this system will create more value for radio, even with all of its potential warts. In the short run this may not be the best thing for EMMIS N.Y. or L.A., but we are supportive of this process to build more confidence in radio for advertisers with PPM. At the end of all this, we will look back and say it was the right move to go to PPM and I have found in general, ARBITRON to be reasonably responsive. Sometimes not as quickly as we want, but they get it done."
18-24 And 18-34 Door-To-Door Recruiting Needed
WBEB/PHILADELPHIA owner JERRY LEE, who is also a COLRAM DIARY COMMITTEE member, told ALL ACCESS, "ARBITRON is in a difficult position right now. They are trying to do the right thing, but the only way to resolve this issue of 18-24 and 18-34 In Tabs is that ARBITRON is going to have to bite the bullet and knock on doors for recruiting, just like they did in HOUSTON. It's expensive, but they need to do this for those demos. I see no other solution right now; I know they are working on many other things, but door-to-door recruiting will solve the problem in the short run."
LEE addressed MORRIS' reference to trade-offs. "At the beginning of this whole process we spoke about trade-offs. It's always a trade-off of sample size versus cost. ARBITRON is in business to make money -- they are not a non-profit. I supported the 65% increase to go to PPM as they said they needed it to pay R&D, cost of maintaining the panel, as well as many unknowns. This is one of the unknowns. We have to quickly come to grips with the panel size -- even if it means ARBITRON loses some money.
"I am sure that with NEILSEN no longer partnering with ARBITRON, they figured they could do PPM without the door to door, and it's not working. They are not getting the younger people in the sample. I don't think it's going to be politically smart to come back to radio for more money. Maybe two years from now -- with the sample fixed and radio making more money -- they can ask for an increase."
Would turning to smart phone technology improve the current PPM situation? Not according to LEE. "Even the best smart phones are going to show a 10-15% drop in listening. Smart phones by nature change the habits of its users away from radio. While they may improve the 'carry rate,' that listening is lost forever."
ARBITRON has declined comment.