A recent Inside Radio article highlighted some of the differences in format performance between the Arbitron diary and their PPM metered markets. The source? Arbitron’s “Radio Today” that covers the Fall ’10 diary markets along with the October/November/December PPM reports for the same basic period.
My bet is that this story will rile up a lot of broadcasters in both diary and PPM markets who feel like they’ve gotten screwed. (Of course, those who have higher ratings with their respective methodologies won’t say a word and thank their lucky stars it’s worked out this way.)
Country managers and programmers will likely be first in line, and there’s probably a panel waiting to happen at next year’s CRS to discuss “The PPM Problem.”
But late in the Inside Radio piece is a rational explanation that is unfortunately buried. As a result, few may bother to read or consider it. It speaks to the demographic differences by market size and audience composition. And really – isn’t THAT a big part of the story?
Sports stations, for example, tend to perform much better in PPM. But doesn’t that have a lot to do with the fact that some of the biggest stations in that format are in markets like Boston, Detroit, Philly, and others that are the homes of four professional sports teams? In the case of my hometown, Detroit, I would argue that Michigan and Michigan State may as well be pro franchises, based on the rabid numbers of fans for each school’s football and basketball programs.
Yet, you look at a market like Syracuse, and all you have are Orange basketball and football. That’s a big difference that might help to explain these disparities. In markets like these, is there even a consensus NFL team that most people follow? Probably not.
Country is clearly a bigger deal in smaller markets than in the biggest metros. A friend in radio asked me the other day what it is about Country in Detroit – why does WYCD do so well there?
There’s only ONE Country station in Detroit, unlike many smaller markets where there are two, three, or more. But if you look at Rock and related formats in the Motor City, there are arguably six stations playing some form of the genre. Again, demographics and market composition tell the story – not ratings methodology.
That’s why when you compare ratings performance in market to market, you’re playing a fool’s game. Ask any consultant who’s been around the block and they’ll tell you that your Alternative station isn’t going to do as well as KROQ, your Country station isn’t going to match up to WIVK, and chances are good that WDVE will out-pace you if you’re rocking.
As the caveat goes, your performance may vary. In fact, it will. And making decisions based on the way the diary and PPM winds are blowing is as short-sighted as you can get.
Great radio and big brands have little to worry about – whether the yardstick is pencil and paper or electronic meters.
That’s what a good consultant will tell you.