The looming crisis in radio ratings


1. Arbitron diaries don’t ask whether or not respondents are subscribers of XM or Sirius. Isn’t this something you would like to know? Arbitron says this is “biasing.” But then why isn’t it biasing to ask whether you listen to AM or FM?

2. Arbitron diaries will not credit any Satellite channel listenership to XM or Sirius unless the respondent writes “XM” or “Sirius” beside the channel name or number. Evidently there is no attempt at attribution, partial or otherwise. Next January, I could theoretically write down that I hear the “Howard Stern show” and that listening could be thrown out by Arbitron.

3. The new question (mentioning satellite radio) that is causing some concern in broadcasting circles will be followed by a “hypothetical” example of how to fill in your satellite listenership using the brand name: “Alpha Satellite Radio”. This is strange and confusing since it suggests to the respondent that there is such a thing as “Alpha Satellite Radio” which, let’s face it, is a pretty good name.

4. To date, the diaries clearly UNDER-count Satellite listeners, given that we know exactly how many satellite subscribers there are and can easily estimate the number of folks who hear each radio. These estimates are markedly higher than the Arbitron diary estimates.

Why do I mention all this stuff?

To illustrate a point.

The diary methodology is woefully inadequate to meet the challenges of measurement in our industry going forward.

If we want the advertising community to place any credence whatsoever in our measurements, then we are obliged to use measurement methodology which inspires credence.

In the meantime, it’s all a fabulous fiction.

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