Sunday, December 20, 2009

Asking The Right Question

I have been seeing this movie a lot in the last year: station is disappointed in its initial PPM rank, so they commission a major radio research company to do a perceptual to see what's wrong.

The research comes back that the station is very healthy and pronounces that the station's brand is strong but the problem is "execution."

Could this be because the researcher is asking the same questions in the same ways which were so predictive of success in diaries, weekly cume and favorite station + importance of parameters + key image ownership?

Shouldn't we be asking in the major markets where PPM is going to be currency in 2010 about daily cume? Daily occasions? Key personalities and programming elements which drive listeners to use a station more days per week and more times per day?

In the U.S., Arbitron is planning a first quarter update of PD Advantage web and promises new reports to be added. Hopefully, one of them will be a day by day report of how many panelists use each competitive station each day of the week and how many times per day for each daypart as well as how long the exposure is for each of them.

Sadly, from my perspective, Canada's BBM is another story completely.

Their InfoSys software (a report from it is pictured) was developed in Spain (for TV, not radio). I have as yet to encounter a Canadian programmer who even fully understands how it works, let alone how to begin to extract info like ARB's current Vital Signs report, which has been available to both diary and PPM stations in PD Advantage software for years now, let alone anything more sophisticated to assist programmers in understanding what they need to do to grow their shares.

Hopefully, BBM includes a New Years resolution to look very hard at the Programmer's Package ARB provides online each month and come up with something as helpful.

Also, would it be wise to reconsider the decision to show only "average minute audience," rather than "average quarter hour," the standard for comparison we've all used since radio audience measurement was created? Not only is BBM comparing apples to oranges in its diary reports vs PPM studies, but audience sizes appear to go down. Who thought that would be a good idea?

We all have a lot to gain if radio programmers can quickly understand the differences between ratings driven by memorablity and behavioral research.

I wish ARB and BBM would both step up their efforts to help stations figure out what's going on and what they need to do about it.

So far, I'd say that ARB is running faster in the right direction than either BBM or radio's longtime perceptual researchers across North America, but we all have plenty of catching up to do if we expect advertisers to see us as "programming experts," let alone our ratings as credible and useful.


Tom Webster said...

2010 is going to be an immensely challenging year for many radio groups, and often when we are challenged, we have a tendency to retreat to positions of comfort. With dollars for things like research and programming consulting being stretched and even eliminated, the budget your station actually has to spend on outside help now has to pass through more hoops, cooks and committees, which often means that there is little bandwidth or stomach for radical departures from what you have done in the past. Yet a radical departure is just what is called for in 2010--what got you here, won't get you there, and if radio continues to trot out the same set of goals for its research initiatives, the industry simply won't be relevant in the years to come.

David Phillips said...

Hi Jaye

As the bloke who runs the company that provides the InfoSys Radio software in Canada (BBM Analytics), I was interested to read your comments.

First off, we'd be more than happy to show you the software, since I think sitting down with it first-hand would allay some of your concerns and clear up some misunderstandings (InfoSys can actually do the analysis you're saying it can't do, for example).

Secondly, I'm a little surprised by the comment that 'no programmers fully understand it'. That's very different to the reaction we've been getting from our clients. We've been working in all PPM markets with programmers, ensuring that they're comfortable using the software. So far, the feedback we've received has been overwhelming positive. It's the most sophisticated application for PPM data currently available so there's obviously going to be a learning curve, but this is a new world, as Mr Webster points out above.

Thirdly, we're always looking for ways to improve our products. We consulted over a year ago with many individuals on the programming side, showing them early versions of InfoSys Radio, and making changes to the program as a result. We're continuing to consult our clients every day, and we'll be rolling out some initiatives in the next few months that should make programmers very happy indeed.

Fourth, InfoSys was developed specifically for meter data, and is used for radio (and TV) in other countries. This means we can access almost 2 decades of learning from across the world on how to analyze and present panel data. We have a specific Canadian version, with a development team of over 40 people, meaning our clients get the best of both worlds.

Lastly, I just wanted to add that we're always looking for feedback, so I'm grateful for your post. Feel free to email me at and I'll set something up so you can see the software. Maybe we could even persuade you to become a client!