Ferguson Finds Flaw In Arbitron's SmartPlus
December 10, 2007 at 1:55 PM (PT)
The effectiveness of ARBITRON's "SmartPlus" ratings program is being questioned by NORTHERN BROADCAST GM CHARLIE FERGUSON, after the ratings group admitted to a problem of double-counting from using two-book averages.
"Buyers using SmartPlus who are used to pulling two-book averages in Standard Markets continue to do so in Condensed Markets, where the single book current ratings already have a two-book average," FERGUSON explained. "This results in double counting the oldest sample group, re-averages the numbers and skews the ratings severely. Our group of stations just happened to get the short end of the deal in our market, but this is happening to someone's stations) in every condensed market where buyers are using SmartPlus."
In a conference call with FERGUSON, ARBITRON's DAVE WILLINSKI, TOM O'SULLIVAN and SCOTT MUSGRAVE finally acknowledged the problem. "We've been pounding on them about it since the SUMMER of 2006 and I received a two-line e-mail from ARBITRON saying they would fix it in MARCH of 2008," FERGUSON said. "Considering that ARBITRON's SmartPlus summary data program has been performing non-MRC accredited calculations for Condensed Markets since late 2005, how much money do you think your Condensed Market stations have lost due to buyers using inaccurate ratings information? This has cost our company a small fortune - and we're supposed to celebrate because they're going to fix it at the end of the first quarter of 2008. I'm thrilled - and can't help but wonder if they'll use the same timetable for the big markets to fix PPM.
He noted that ARBITRON's viewed the problem as a "training issue with the agencies using SmartPlus," then wondered "If this is a training issue, why has it been going on for so long when it's performing non-MRC functions?"