Thursday, August 23, 2007

New Arbitron Goof: Rats Ate The PPM Data

If you're going to today's Arbitron Consultants' Fly-In in Columbia, MD., don't get bitten by a rat (and be sure also to wear your BS-detector!)...

Here's a great recap of the current problems (and you sure can't disagree with their final sentence!):

Said one broadcaster (email obtained by ftm): “Which is worse, a 30% drop in sample ... or an error of this scope that no one at Arbitron caught?” All of this is more than vaguely, but materially similar to 2004 episode in the life of RadioControl – another electronic measurement system – in Switzerland. Changing sample provider in the midst of one survey period caused numerous changes in the results, including the ‘disappearance’ of several stations. Neither Radiocontrol nor PublicaData, its marketing service, informed clients of the change in advance and waited until one station owner – also a prominent Swiss political figure – threw what could only be described as a fit. The result, three years later, was a complete reorganization of the radio audience measurement system in Switzerland. Sampling, apparently, is even more volatile with electronic measurement systems. Abitron said yesterday – and last week, last month and last year – that sampling problems with PPM surveys would be corrected. Media measurement services operate like public utilities, mediating – like accounting – a relationship between broadcasters and media buyers. Confidence, on both sides, is built on transparency. Where transparency is weak, quality control weaker and the science reminiscent of Enron derivatives broadcasters and advertisers need to re-think whether or not they are getting what they’re paying for.

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