Situation Normal: All FUD Up

Arbitron took another hit on the internet with this post on allaccess.com, which has Harker Research saying the PPM is inferior to Nielsen, in so many words. The story quotes Harker, saying: “Seven billion more dollars. That’s what we estimate radio stations in the top-50 markets could add to their billing if radio used Nielsen numbers rather than Arbitron PPM numbers.” The report notes that the diary method reports 50% more TSL (“time spent listening”) than does the “new, improved” PPM — and that Nielsen’s ratings were twice as high. And in the vaunted AQH (“average quarter hour”) results oft quoted by bean counters, “PPM estimate is nearly 30% lower than its own diary estimates, and 45% lower than Nielsen’s.”

As the first commenter noted:

This is a huge radio story. Why should there be such a difference between PPM and diary? Is the PPM technology so wrong? Was the diary system that off? The fate of an industry may be in the answers.

According to Harker, also reported elsewhere, this could have cost radio “$7 billion.” Not so, says this post on The Infinite Dial. Nonsense, it says here, adding that this is what’s known as the FUD option — Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. As in, when you can’t compete on price or quality, FUD is your only option.

Well, hell, that seems to be part and parcel of this whole system — lock, stock, and barrel. TIME TO UPGRADE (or you’ll be left out). Your station needs HD channels (or you’ll go broke in analog). Etc., etc., ad nauseam. But the question remains: Why are the numbers from the diary and PPM so different, and are both of them bogus or maybe just one?

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