Too Much Fuss about Voltair


You’ve heard of Voltair, that’s the audio technology that presumably allows PPM devices to more effectively pick up that all-important encoded signal that says a radio station is near.

Every day it’s in the radio biz news headlines, and I don’t know why.

If it works, then you should buy one, shouldn’t you? Everyone should, right? It’s not an unfair advantage if it’s available to all, is it? Just go buy one and wring every last bit of credit out of those encoded signals. What are we talking about here?

Maybe it might work as described, but you don’t know for sure. Then go buy one just in case! Isn’t that why some folks have a rabbit’s foot on their keychain or read the astrology charts? Hedge your bets! After all, it was an actual guy named Voltaire who once wrote “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”

This is another example of the survival of the fittest. Those who are “fittest” are those with the strongest survival advantages in their environment, whatever those happen to be. Thus, those with the advantages survive, and those without them do not.

But whatever you do, recognize what you’re really buying here: Not more listening or even more credit for listening, but more credit for exposure.

I’ve read stories that stress how this tool may allow more “accurate” measurement. Sure, but more “accurate” measurement of what?

Not engagement.

Not listenership.

Not passion.

Not interest.

Not results for your client.

Just exposure.

This gadget in your engineering department will not influence the degree to which listeners care about your content, nor will it measure it.

Voltair is just another way to game PPM, which is nothing but a big game anyway (Game mechanics? Prize money? Yep, it’s all built in to PPM).

Does it seem wrong that you have to buy a device to play this game with the rest of the fittest? Sure. But what about PPM doesn’t seem wrong?

Isn’t this why Nielsen is being challenged in the TV space by Rentrak and others who use alternative measurement technologies?

So let’s all play the game. For now.

But while you’re at it, make sure to create content real people care about and want to actually hear again and again. Because that’s why people actually listen, and in a growing number of cases, that’s why your clients are actually buying.

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  • John

    Amen Mark, its sad folks grasping for success believe this is the new magic bullet to ensure ratings success. if the content sucks the box isn’t going to make folks listen.

  • WadeCollins

    Just curious Mark, how many radio stations have you programmed ?. Oh, and how many are in PPM markets?. Okay, and your final bonus question is how many of those stations are AM spoken-word stations with signal issues?. I can bet your 0 for 3. So I understand your points that a device per se won’t make your radio station more attractive, more interesting or engaging. But that’s not the issue. Quit spinning the topic.I actually agree with you on your 10,000 foot view, but were talking about monthly ratings here not philosophy.

    The noise level due to RF interference on AM radio has continued unabated for decades, only now the AM receivers are worse not better than those manufactured in the 70’s, yet signals that previously had acceptable coverage are now fighting everything from cell towers, to aging telephone lines, bad wiring, bridges, badly laid out power grids, and steel and glass buildings.

    Encoding technology favors a constant flow of audio, not the quirky pauses and lower volume of some hosts. One thought some gave was to add music underneath to a talk show, not a great concept, but it goes to the point that spoken word formats are more vulnerable to the outdated technology employed by PPM. spoken Word formats on AM radio have even more challenges.

  • Hi Wade,

    I have programmed zero radio stations in zero PPM markets and zero were AM spoken-word stations with signal issues.
    Yet I have been called on by hundreds of people who have programmed stations in PPM markets to help them grow their ratings in these markets, so its specious to suggest that I don’t know what I’m talking about here.
    That said, if you’re an AM station with a signal problem, you’ve got issues much bigger than whether or not to buy a Voltair unit.
    Finally, there is no doubt that such a gadget will not, in your words, “make your radio station more attractive, more interesting or engaging.” I don’t really think that’s spin on my part considering A) It’s true and B) I’m basically arguing that y’all should buy the darn Voltair and then get about your business as broadcasters, which is to do right by your clients and your fans.

  • Arthur Hinty

    Bill Blacksmith here. Just curious, Mark, how many horses have you fitted for horseshoes? How many chimneys have YOU swept? How many Skidoos have you 23’d?

    As a radio outsider, it sounds like Wade is trying trickery and tomfoolery to keep alight a flame that time and popular opinion has already extinguished.

  • “Wade” is not his real name. ‘Nuff said.

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