Introducing "The Truth Meter"

So I returned to Scottsdale from LA the other night when I received the first of what would be 21 -- count 'em, 21 -- emails from a radio industry consultant taking me to task for advocating the Arbitron Portable People Meter (PPM).

The emails got nastier as the night went on, but the sender is no dummy.

He's brilliant.

Rude, but brilliant.

Unfortunately he suffers from the same disease that is taking radio down right now -- the "I'm right, you're wrong if you don't agree with me" attitude. Certainly his concerns and the concerns of others should be passionately pursued.

And Arbitron should be held accountable for the integrity of the People Meter because it is key to radio's future.

Having said that, I swear I felt like I got caught wearing a mink coat by PETA (the animal rights group). All I said was -- get off the diary and get into the future.

I didn't say PPM was the greatest thing in the world.

It isn't. It's flawed.

I never said the results are perfect or even up to par yet. But I am saying -- move on or move over.

The radio industry has to stop this.

The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters has a right to demand validity from the People Meter. Kick Arbitron's butt, but stop the mixed messages and delaying tactics.

Radio groups are signing PPM contracts faster than Lindsay Lohan can go to rehab.

Cox's Bob Neil, who has been known to hire a programming consultant or two at times, is pissy about the People Meter which is okay, but don't tell Arbitron "to be careful what you wish for" as he reportedly said after Cox became a PPM client.

Is that a threat? All you're doing is threatening your own future.

Ironically, these same radio consolidators are the ones bankrolling the Arbitron People Meter. You'd think they had no control over Arbitron by the way they throw fits, issue threats and trash the very ratings they are supporting by willfully and knowingly signing long-term contracts for PPM service.

You can't have it both ways.

Don't get me wrong PPM issues are fair game now and forever.

Got issues over docking habits by meter wearers? Hold Arbitron to the fire. Go ahead. It's your right. You're paying for it.

But don't get your meters bent out of shape.

Farid Suleman, the shrewdest of shrewd cats, negotiated a seven-year deal with Arbitron to use the People Meter ratings at his Citadel stations -- that's akin to Southwest Airlines buying options on jet fuel years into the future to hedge on price increases. Now Farid is free to move around the ratings world as he pleases.

If Farid winds up trashing the thing he just locked up for seven straight years, shareholders should then hold him responsible.

I'd like to see Arbitron develop a Truth Meter.

It's only for radio executives.

And Arbitron executives.

It doesn't record radio listening because we all know that many radio execs have XM or Sirius in their Lexus's.

My new Truth Meter is designed to pick up double talk.

Let's track how many radio presidents say one thing to the advertising community and yet another to the trade press.

Let's see if we can develop a Truth Meter that will track what executives say in closed door meetings with advertisers, executives, media people, their own salespeople -- people who could make them money using PPM.

What The Truth Meter can do is record the double-talk that some radio executives babble to Wall Street and the trade press and balance it with the butt-kissing that they are most certainly doing (or will be doing) to advertisers who -- and read this part loudly -- like the People Meter.


Advertisers -- the people who make radio money -- want this thing.

Stop trashing it.

Make it better.

Make it validate true radio listening as much as statistically possible.

Someone wrote me and said they couldn't understand why I sold out to Arbitron. That I if I still lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey (as I did when I owned Inside Radio) I wouldn't go soft on them. California and academia changed me, they argued.

I'm not making this up.

They're right. California has changed me. I don't freeze in the winters anymore.

And academia hasn't changed me.

My students have.

How many times do I have to say that young people don't want to listen to radio anymore. They don't like it.

You bet that's changed me. It should wake you up, too, if you're running radio stations.

Without the next generation, radio has no future.

Radio, you've put up (rushing to sign all those PPM contracts). Now it's time to shut up.

There's lots of smart talent in this business and still many good leaders. Try a different tact.

For your sake get into the future so you can move onto bigger problems like existing in a media world competing with iPods, iPhones, Internet, downloading, social networking and video content.

Strap on the Truth Meter every time you're tempted to shoot yourself in the foot so we can have a nice digital recording of stupidity at its best.

You don't publicly attack what you've signed long-term contracts to support.

Own up.

Radio has a sorry record of supporting initiatives critical to its future.

• The industry took forever to lobby automakers to install FM-capable radio in cars.

• Dragged their feet arguing over AM stereo and in the end it didn't matter.

• You saw what happened when the radio industry allowed the debate over digital audio to drag on. Satellite radio came along. Terrestrial broadcasters complained about not having enough channels to compete with satellite radio or even the Internet for that matter. What you got was HD radio -- too little, too late.

• Terrestrial broadcasters made the wrong decision on the Internet and instead wasted the last ten years while content delivery slipped away from transmitters and towers.

• They have no mobile strategy other than a radio -- a device young people have forsaken for iPods and cell phones.

It's no surprise that radio execs are now doing what they do best when they critically delay the implementation of the People Meter and stall to keep inferior paper diaries over electronic ratings -- in the digital age already!

There's little doubt where all this turmoil will get radio.

Just check its track record for a look into the future.

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