Purple People Meter

Jerry Del Colliano returned to the subject of Arbitron’s PPM, the People Powered Meter (or, as Jim Vest would say, the flying Purple People Meter) that’s turning radio formatting into a modern musical chairs. Writing in his popular Inside Music Media, Jerry opined:

PPM delivers more radio listeners to some formats, which is why many radio groups are racing to dump what’s left of format variety for same-old-same-old formats that could play well with an increasingly defective ratings methodology. And now, guess what — radio groups really like PPM.

Imagine — close your eyes for a second — I walk into your office and pitch you a ratings service that doesn’t reside on an existing mobile phone or device, but on a bulky add-on that must be schlepped wherever you go. Then, I tell you it is so inaccurate (I’m crossing my fingers at this point — maybe even toes) that it picks up encoded signals even if the person carrying the meter device isn’t listening to the radio stations they like.

Would you pay money for that in this day and age? Well, broadcasters are and they are being taken hostage by aliens who are gaining power over their radio stations.

Jerry continues in his inimitable fashion, bewailing the rush to a middle-ground mediocrity that spells the end of some of the more marginal formats such as smooth jazz. His thoughts on what makes a good station bear scrutiny:

We’re doing radio ass-backwards if you don’t mind me using a little Italian. PPM shouldn’t drive radio formats. Listeners should drive radio formats. Period.


1. Short-attention spans require stimulation so play music, a spot, music, a spot, etc.

2. Never do a long music sweep if you’re taking into account attention spans. I know it’s heresy to some but it is true. Interruptions work today. The more the better. Please, please — I beg you — re-read #2.

3. Personalities riding the music like jockeys — hey let’s call them disc jockeys — are the best way to bring the many format elements together.

4. Want ratings — add variety. Audiences are different today. When radio lived and died by short playlists it was because the radio was the only place audiences could hear free music and we got to control the number of things they heard. Now, listeners steal music, preview it, look to peers, iTunes, YouTube and find more variety than radio can offer. Radio needs to address this issue.

So, enjoy the short-term perceived benefits of gaming radio to the already outdated technology of the People Meter.

The station that listens to their listeners gets the listeners.


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