Neil, Warfield Insist On MRC Accreditation For PPM
May 21, 2008 at 9:58 AM (PT)
COX RADIO Pres./CEO BOB NEIL has long been an outspoken proponent of electronic measurement, but has vocally taken issue with ARBITRON's PPM sample sizes, and the need for MRC accreditation before rolling out additional markets, (NET NEWS 4/28, NET NEWS 5/7).
Citing a need to raise broadcaster awareness of these two important issues, NEIL and INNER CITY BROADCASTING Pres./COO CHARLES WARFIELD have taken out advertising in the form of an open letter to the Industry on ALLACCESS and elsewhere to accomplish their mutual goals.
Arbitron has got to commit to doing the accreditation work at an accelerated pace, getting the accreditation, and getting samples and thresholds better.
NEIL, speaking for WARFIELD who was out of the office this week, told ALL ACCESS, "We thought we needed to do more in-depth explaining about why we feel the way that we do about MRC accreditation, and we thought this was a great way to spell out that we support electronic measurement, but feel the need for accreditation -- getting the science right before moving forward.
"ARBITRON's position about ARBITRENDS not being accredited is fine, as long as business is not being placed on those numbers. Any numbers being used as currency should be accredited.
"Frankly, it's been like pulling teeth to get specifics on what's accredited and where PPM is in terms of getting accreditation for PHILADELPHIA (which failed to win MRC accreditation), and getting MRC accreditation for NEW YORK and the other markets waiting for rollout. They were more than willing to update the industry on the HOUSTON accreditation process because they thought it was to their advantage. This leads to an atmosphere where there is no trust."
Speaking as someone who runs a company's sales efforts based on ARBITRON currency data, NEIL said, "Just ask a salesperson in my company or any radio company what a bad book can do to an entire cluster and how it affects people's lives and careers and incomes, not to mention incorrect programming and sales strategies as a result.
"We are only asking for two things:
"First, ARBITRON needs to get this new system -- I call it the PHILADELPHIA system -- accredited in at least one market before we continue to roll this out. It needs the MRC seal of approval before other markets are rolled out.
"Secondly, take a more realistic look at sample sizes in the individual demographic cells, and realize that 70% indexing is not anything close to an indication of success. This is not a passing grade. Neither of these are big asks of ARBITRON. They had years to test PPM, and we shouldn't be going through this."
Lower PPM Sample Sizes, Unacceptable Sample Indexes
NEIL explained his issues with PPM samples. "The whole issue is exacerbated by the fact that PPM has a lower sample base than diary surveys to begin with. For example, if you had a diary sample of 90 in 25-34 Women, and applied ARBITRON's current benchmark of acceptability of 70%, you'd now have 63 people in-tab. Since every PPM counts as three diaries, then the original sample would start at 30 and at 70% indexing be a PPM sample size of 21. I don't think any buyer is going to have much confidence in 21 people.
"As I've said, only in the world of ARBITRON is a 70 a passing grade. In every school I know it's an F ... maybe a D-. We're not paying all this extra money for a failing grade.
"ARBITRON has got to commit to doing the accreditation work at an accelerated pace, getting the accreditation, and getting samples and thresholds better. The recourse we have as broadcasters is not to encode. That's not something we'd prefer to do.
"We cannot pay 65% more to get bad data. Need I say more?"
NEIL concluded, "ARBITRON needs to deliver what they promised -- and then the legitimate complaints from folks like CHARLES and me will disappear."
To read the open letter, just click here.
SVP/Press and Investor Relations THOM MOCARSKY responded, "ARBITRON is committed to completing an MRC audit and a thorough review of that audit in each and every market before we commercialize electronic measurement. We are also committed to ultimately obtaining MRC accreditation for our currency services. These are the minimum standards put forth in the MRC¹s own Draft Voluntary Code of Conduct. These are the standards that we are following in order to advance the science of radio audience measurement so that radio can keep pace with the digital media environment.