Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Looking On The Bright Side Of ARB's Earnings Call

It's easy to be upset at Arbitron following company CEO Steve Morris' analyst call Tuesday. Instead, I've decided that I am going to try to be Little Mary Sunshine on their future plans to measure new media and possibly even TV.

Sure, wild sample quality control wobbles have seemingly become business as usual for ARB diary markets, creating constant heartburn for radio exec's, even as their ratings supplier's second quarter revenues went up 4% over last year (if only we could say that about radio nationally!) and now Arbitron reports that they will probably deliver an 8-10% increase in annual revenue over last year.

So, as Morris told Wall Street, they sure can't plead poverty as a reason for lousy sample consistency, as they try to hold the line on expenses in order to keep growing their profits: “Sample size is going to be an issue for us forever. That’s going to increase demands for more and more sample.”

Morris has to know that he's going to have a hard time renewing their current radio clients with the current accelerator clauses (3-4% annually in diary markets and 60-65% when a market goes to PPM) given today's economy. So, they hope to use PPM to grow their business by measuring new media and perhaps even television.

“We continue to see opportunity and strong advertiser support for more holistic measures of the media landscape. We’re talking to the TV industry. There is opportunity there, but it will get better as we have more [PPM] markets open.”

I'm confident that radio's story when compared by buyers in the same ratings data with television and new media is going to look very compelling. Hopefully, Arbitron will start sharing what they know from the new-defunct Project Apollo. Anyone inside a radio station knows that radio gets results and remains a bargain for the bucks. Did Nielsen pull out of the project because their TV clients would not have been pleased with what it was showing?

Radio has been paying much of the cost of ARB's moves to measure these competing media.

I am hopeful that radio's powerful reach and impact when directly compared to all other media, including TV, is a story Arbitron will start helping us tell .. and soon.

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