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Dirty Laundry

August 23, 2016

Recently Mark Ramsey penned a couple blogs suggesting that more broadcasters drop Nielsen and spend that money improving their products. To be sure, taking shots at Nielsen (and Arbitron) has been a radio blood sport for years. And, I am not here to be a Nielsen apologist or defender. We can all agree that a larger sample size would be a step in the right direction. (Side note: Have you compared your market’s radio sample size with that of the TV survey? You might be shocked.)

Let’s take a step back. For years radio has been taking it on the chin from the digital world. The automobile industry is beginning to treat us as if we were antiquated technology. And, if you pay close attention to industry buzz of late Podcasting is about to explode (and kill us all!).

What is our response to this? We flood the web with stories that say that the numbers you are seeing as they represent radio listening are flawed beyond belief. If I were an outsider considering the use of radio as part of my marketing strategy this would give me pause. Digital companies would have us believe that their measurement tools are flawless, and they are an effective advertising medium. When was the last time you noticed, let alone clicked on a display ad? I am also pretty sure Pandora and Spotify are telling advertisers that they are stealing quarter-hours from us by the thousands every day. Just look at the Triton numbers (uhhh, and how exactly are those created?).

This consistent pattern of industry negativity and the lack of industry proactivity sure makes it seem like we’re as valuable a medium as milk cartons.

Where are the positive voices and stories? I am willing to wager that if you walked into ANY radio cluster in ANY market and talked to the Sales Department you would hear about how client after client has used radio to grow their business. Maybe I’m wrong. After all, businesses are throwing billions of dollars at a .03% CTR so maybe they have cash to burn and they want to waste it on radio, too.

They are obviously smarter than that. They are in the business of making money and believe that radio can help them accomplish that goal. So, why aren’t we talking about this? Why aren’t we showcasing our strengths and viability? We’ll likely never make radio the “it” medium again if we continue to criticize the way we are measured.

Airing our dirty laundry to the public – with no counterbalancing arguments – is regressive. I’m not saying that bloggers like Mark Ramsey and others do not have the right to share their views. As a matter of fact, the blog in question was spot on about some aspects of our ratings system. However, rather than just chucking it all away, why aren’t we – as an industry – working together to improve the system? While PPM and the radio diary are not perfect systems, they are better than many other measurement tools. As an industry, let’s work with Nielsen to make this survey system even better.

Where are the radio advocates that not only extol our virtues but point out the serious and systemic flaws in our competitors?

This recent outbreak of radio criticism makes us all look bad. By comparison, is anyone on our side pointing out how flawed the impressions system is in the digital world? Do you even know what constitutes an “impression”? Look it up (OK, Google it). You’ll see it is more flimsy than a 16 person household.

We are pro-radio. We see that its benefits to advertisers and listeners outweigh its flaws. We are also well aware that today’s all-digital world has us in the position of defense. We need to start playing offense. We need to counter negative arguments with positive data. We need to show how radio is an integral part of any (every?) marketing list.

If we don’t do this – who will?

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant

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