Free Listeners

Twenty-one Los Angeles stations have a cume of over one million according to the Arbitron Portable People Meter.

By comparison the diary method reports ten.

Twenty one -- or ten?

Which would you choose?

Don't ask Bob Neil or his band of die-hard diary proponents. They want the People Meter -- their way -- perfect.

And on their timetable - which seems to some as never.

The radio industry is in the tank -- along with other advertising-related businesses. If someone could show you a way to report larger audiences just by improving the methodology, wouldn't you be interested?

You'd think so. But PPM has become an all-too public family feud among radio people.

Arbitron is readying LA for the People Meter and also touts:

• Hispanics with the highest time spent with radio and highest persons using radio ratings

• Audience composition confirms targetability of radio formats

• PPM sample reflects the diversity of the Los Angeles market

The People Meter is certainly imperfect, but progress is being made. I read a comment recently that Bob Neil believes the pressure his supporters have been putting on Arbitron may have helped get their attention. Whatever.

I remember the outstanding strategic radio researcher Bill Moyes telling me that perception is bigger than reality and the perception of radio as an under measured medium certainly makes present ad rates look like a bargain.

That is, unless you're making a federal case out of what's wrong.

I've long been a proponent of doing the arm twisting in the back room and not in front of the advertising community.

There's good reason to be excited about the eleven additional LA stations that made it to the million cume club in pre-testing. This can only be a positive for an industry that has too much bad news to handle.

Radio isn't going to get the next generation listening to a radio -- no matter what ratings system is in place. They're lost to the Internet and mobile space and too many radio executives don't understand their sociological makeup.

Radio isn't going to make local TV go away as a competitor but armed with better cumes and using the Jerry Lee approach to making better commercials for advertisers, radio now has a chance to make more money by eating into TV ad budgets.

HD technology isn't going to deliver more cume listeners to station owners because HD is a failure. So owners must rely on the mothership -- the radio stations they own -- to become a growth industry.

It's not likely radio will become a growth industry again any time soon -- particularly because it doesn't have the next generation coming up to become life long radio listeners. So, getting more audience credit for what radio stations already do is a gift. An expensive gift -- but nonetheless free listeners.

Radio's leaders always seem to be a day late and a dollar short.

But with the People Meter, Arbitron is ready to hand them more listeners for doing nothing different.

They can still screw up their air sound with voice tracking, non-local shows, too many commercials, daffy djs, tight playlists and diminished morning shows.

And now they can get more listener credit for all their screw ups.

Hey, I'm with you on better representation of key demos and ethnic groups.

I mean, hell, next month webcasts and HD multicast (for what that's worth) will be included in the measurements.

Who wouldn't like this deal? Bob Neal?

All radio broadcasters have to do to get higher ratings -- without improving their stations or winning back the next generation is ...

Get out of their own way.

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