The announcement that Nielsen is back in the radio ratings game now that Cumulus and Clear Channel have signed on for 50 small and medium small markets has achieved "breaking news" status today. But what does it tell us about the state of our industry, and its inability to get on the same page?
PPM lacks perfection, to be sure. Many broadcasters have been critical of numerous flaws, from sampling frames to meter issues, and of course, the cost. But going back to the diaries as the solution?
Today's Media Daily News story, written by Joe Mandese, notes that "instead of utilizing a newfangled, state-of-the-art audience measurement technology, Nielsen will deploy old school paper diaries, though it will utilize a peel-and-paste sticker methodology that Nielsen has deployed successfully for radio audience measurement internationally in 11 key global markets, and will utilize what is considered by some to be a better system for drawing the samples it uses to produce its ratings."
Isn't this like saying that instead of using a "newfangled" word-processing program like Word, Cumulus and Clear Channel are opting for Remington manual typewriters? Who needs a GPS when we can still get TripTiks from AAA?
But don't take it from me. Ask your neighbor at your kid's hockey game, or the guy next to you in line at Quantum of Solace, or the mom you run into at the tailgate. Tell them you're in radio, and when they ask you that inevitable question about how the ratings work, describe the metered electronic measurement system of PPM versus the paper diary. And then get their reaction.
PPM - flaws, expense, fits and starts, and all - makes sense to anyone who has a computer and has put away their 8-tracks. Programmers in PPM markets will tell you to a person that the accountability and reflection of reality they see in electronic measurement is what they've yearned for their entire careers.
But as has been the case - especially since consolidation - radio rarely speaks in one voice. Instead, it's often several disparate tongues. As advertisers continue to wonder about radio's relevancy, broadcasters continue to give them fodder that suggests we just don't get it.