Arbitron Delays PPM Ratings For Multiple Markets

After months of open conflict with some of the nation's largest radio broadcasters, Arbitron announced Monday that it will delay commercialization of ratings from its Portable People Meter in key major markets.

That means a nine-month delay in New York and Long Island (Sept. 2008), six months in Los Angeles, Riverside, Calif., and Chicago (March 2008) and three months in San Francisco, San Jose and Dallas, the first two in June and the last in Sept. 2008. During this period the company will extend the use of its current paper diary system. The company plans to introduce PPM service in Atlanta, Detroit, Washington D.C., and other markets on schedule.

Arbitron's CEO Steve Morris said the delay would allow Arbitron to fix the problems noted by broadcasters, including the failure to meet target sample sizes for "in-tab" groups, meaning people who are actually carrying the PPM device, rather than leaving it docked in its charger.

According to Morris, "over the past three weeks, feedback from our customers, the Media Rating Council and other constituencies has led us to conclude that the radio industry would be better served if we were to delay further commercialization of the PPM in order to address their issues."



The PPM service gained MRC accreditation in Houston earlier this year, a prerequisite required by a radio industry consortium before the ratings service could be commercialized. Arbitron has said it doesn't plan on waiting for additional MRC accreditations before commercialization in other markets, but it must obtain these eventually.

Morris pointed to a number of initiatives already underway to improve PPM service, including programs to cull non-participants from samples and recruit individuals who will participate as replacements. He added that the company will use the additional time to "work closely with community leaders to review the workings of the Portable People Meter service and to gather their insights as to how we might improve compliance among persons 18-34, including ethnic young adults, across the diverse communities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and subsequent markets."

Broadcasters targeting minority audiences have complained that Arbitron's failure to meet sample size among African-Americans and Hispanics ages 18-34 has led to huge declines in ratings in Houston and Philadelphia, leading to unease among advertisers and media planners. Precipitous drops were also seen in urban format stations in New York, where "pre-currency" results for October were released earlier this month.

Among the New York stations taking the biggest hits were WRKS/98.7 FM, WBLS/107.5 FM, WQHT/97.1 FM, WCAA/105.9 FM, WADO/1280 AM, and WPAT/93.1 FM.

Next story loading loading..