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Are Diaries better than PPM for Radio?

So here's conventional thinking:

PPM measures "real listening" while diaries record (and reward) recall and not "real listening."

Not quite, I would argue.

Actually, PPM measures exposure, not listening.  And diaries record the degree to which audiences are interested in the stations they consume.  That's because greater interest yields greater recall which yields more diary mentions.

It seems to me we have gotten so lost in the "language of accuracy" in measurement that we have forgotten the more important language of impact and effectiveness.

Talk personalities get premium dollars to deliver messages because the broadcaster, the talent, and the advertiser all know this:  A message delivered by that personality works better.  And by that I mean it makes more cash registers ring.

Shouldn't the value of a ratings methodology be influenced not just by whether we're counting ears right but also by whether those ears will matter to the advertiser?  And the ears which matter most are those which are most engaged in the content that surrounds the message.

How well will your spots work when they're placed during a listener event that I, the PPM panelist, can't even remember giving you?

Now, how well will your spots work when the message is coming from the mouth of my favorite personality?  Or from the station that I recall listening to, even if the details of that recall are sketchy?

These are extreme illustrations, of course.  And I recognize that Arbitron's job is not to place a value on ratings – it's to make those ratings as accurate as they can be.

We are building a presumably more accurate PPM-based ratings methodology which expands by many-fold our audiences by diminishing by many-fold the degree to which any listener cares about what they're hearing – if they're even paying attention to it in the first place.

Advertisers will come to recognize that what's measured isn't nearly as important as what works.  

They will recognize that listeners who are engaged in what radio they consume are better customers than those who are not.

They will recognize that stations with fewer listeners could actually be better advertising partners than stations with more exposures.

Recently, a former Proctor & Gamble brand manager told me explicitly that advertisers devalue radio (and other mass media) specifically because its impressions are so far from the cash register.

For all the many sins of diaries, the fact that they reward recall means they also reward listeners who give a damn.  And that brings them closer to the sale by definition.

Can PPM say the same?

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