Sunday, November 16, 2008

No, This Is Not The Arbitron Affiliates Advisory Council

Though, the real ARAC's of the past have been just about as remote from the day to day concerns of the lives of most medium and small size radio operators as they have met in luxury resorts as the G-7 (and later G-8, which is pictured) was from developing countries. It was always pretty clear, in the past, who the real superpower in the relationship was.

ARB Advisory Council Actions and Quotes Of The Last Few Days (Some Comments Added, From Your Humble Scribe)

Actions promised by ARB at last week’s ARAC meeting:

* No more premiums for 55+. Put that money into 18-34 diary households. This is said to be happening right now. (What took so long?)
* Cell phone only households to be included in 50 college town metros in Spring, 25 more by Fall. (I’d feel better if they had tested this approach before going live with it, but diary samples creeping up even to 35-44 in some markets have gotten so bad that all of us who have been watching the trend in diary markets are delighted to see some action of any kind, at long last.)
* Possible heightened use of the eDiary in ’09. (BUT, didn’t they stop eDiaries a year ago because they seemed to lower persons using radio? 18-24 and 25-34 diary samples have gotten so bad, they now trump the earlier concern, I guess.)

From Friday's trade publications:

“The council is encouraged by the procedures, changes and new treatments in the diary process and the commitment in personnel, time and resources in turning around the deteriorating sample in the transactional demo of 18-54 and more specifically 18-34. When you look at the metrics, particularly in 18-34 in the diary markets, it is pretty frightening.” -- Chuck DuCoty, COO, NRG Media

They have made significant progress in the PPM world addressing the sample issues surrounding young adults and minorities but the diary markets have lagged. Now, Arbitron is doing something about that. Time is of the essence and these improvements are not the final answer. They need to keep working on this.” -- Rubber City Radio president Thomas Mandel

“They are merely heading down the path of electronically collecting the same basic data in the same format, eliminating the paper diary, giving the appearance of change without addressing the fundamental issues. The old model of constantly increasing rates with multi-year deals is broken forever in the face of declining industry revenues. If they don’t make the fundamental changes needed, they may be shocked at how quickly their base of business disappears.” --
Qantum Communications CEO Frank Osborn

Osborn’s quote in the trades following the meeting, “They are genuinely seeking input from operators,” comes as no surprise, since “seeking input” is something ARB has a long history of doing, since it’s a lot cheaper to do than acting on festering problems at a time when radio needs and deserves more reliable numbers than ever. Why does it take a meeting with client reps to prod ARB into action on what their client stations have been yelling at their sales reps about for many years?

Guaranteeing an index of 80 in all of the individual 18-54 cells and not just the broad family reunion of a demo would be something of a start, but the reliability of a sample that’s +/- 20% of target is still enough to stand your hair on end.

No wonder ARB President Steve Morris said in the minutes of last July’s Advisory Council meeting: “Arbitron’s relationship with radio clients has become marked by a level of distrust..”

..To say the very least. Arbitron often has treated its diary market clients a lot like the United States has treated the rest of the world. The G-7 superpowers became the G-8 when Russia joined in 1997. In 2007, it became the G-8 + 5 and finally, now, with the world’s economic crisis it just became the G-20.

Hopefully, the 2009 ARAC under chairperson Lisa Decker of CBS Radio, will act as if they represent all of us, not just the biggest Arbitron clients.

No comments: