Early results are in on the new PPM (Portable People Meters) from Philadelphia and Houston, and so
far I would have to give them an "A-". I give a "minus" because I don’t believe there is any rating
system that is going to be completely or entirely accurate. That being said, the new Arbitron
electronic monitoring system may be the best available tool for audience measurement now being
offered. One thing for sure, PPMs out-perform the old diary method. I never liked diaries, did not
believe them to be accurate, plus, the methodology was based on erroneous recall of diary
participants. I knew this forty years ago when I was a Program Director in San Antonio, and a day
time Spanish station placed first in the ARB at night! I was suspect of Arbitron diaries when an
ARB diary keeper came by the station to ask me what it might be worth to be paid for filling out his diary in our station’s favor. I was in dismay when a "book" came in showing an album rock station in
the ‘70's as number one, yet had only three diary keepers in the Men 18-24 category...each one
represented over 30,000! Radio ratings have always been a little "skewed" in some fashion, an
inexact science to be sure. I remember twice in the sixties when C.E. Hooper ratings were taking
their co-incidental phone call polling to see who was listening to a station in the past fifteen
minutes of their call, I received calls while on the air on our station’s "hotline" (or inside) phone
number from Hooper’s surveyor. Naturally, (and truthfully),I said I was listening to my station.
To think large advertising buys were made off such mis-information. Now, with the new PPM
method, this shouldn’t happen as much. I suppose a rating participant who carries one of these
"page-like" devices could call a station and ask to be remunerated for listening only to that station.
It’s happened before, as in my above recalled story, and people are very clever at
winning prizes or obtaining favors from the broadcast media. I still believe that a ratings participant
knows he or she is a part of something important, and won't necessarily listen the way they normally
would. However,the PPMs have already shown in the early sampling returns, that the diary method
was quite poor indeed, and certainly didn’t follow a radio listener’s every movement of the dial.
This is going to change a lot of things in the way Radio programs, and the way it sells that
programming. A change that’s for the better.
That’s my RadiOpinion, what’s yours? email@example.com