The Granular Dangers of PPM

While I think our industry is wrong to legislate against Arbitron and invite the Feds into our internal squabbles with PPM, there’s no question that the PPM system has some significant fine-tuning to do.

Slicing and dicing your PPM data reveals the trouble.

Take Market X, where PPM is new (yeah, I know you can guess). This is a very difficult market to conduct research in, for the record.

Station A is a Mainstream AC located out of the market which nevertheless ranks number two overall – among Men 35-44 – with a 7.6 share.

Interestingly, that same station earns only a 1.7 share among Men 35-43.

So what does it mean? It means one African American 44-year-old-Male listens pretty much around the clock and is single-handedly responsible for 37% of this station’s total AQH audience.

Station B is a Classic Rock station with a huge morning show in that same market.

They’re #1 by a mile among Adults 21-24, representing 46% of their total audience. 62% of their total audience is under 25, according to PPM (compared to 67% over 25 in the waning diary days).

But here’s the thing: Those 21-24 numbers were driven by two PPM panelists who lived in the same household. And because one of them was a Female this Classic Rock station has 42% more Female listeners than the Mainstream AC noted above.

Finally, there’s the out-of-market Urban station that doesn’t throw a signal here and has listeners in this market only thanks to the outside chance of a long commute.

It’s tied for 6th in this market with Men 35-44.

And all of that listening comes from one PPM, one of the four 39-year-olds lucky enough to carry PPM. But this one is the only African American. Working out the math, this one PPM panelist is responsible for more than 80% of this station’s overall listening in the market.

Are these bumps along the road to precision? Or are the sample sizes simply too small to represent the complexity of a market like this one – and perhaps a market like yours?

There is a world after Arbitron. A world where measuring ears is less important than activating listeners on behalf of advertisers.

Will PPM bring us that world sooner rather than later?

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