Saturday, March 5, 2011

The PPM Tilt-A-Whirl

I am privileged to attend a luncheon put on by CBS Radio/Atlanta twice a year.  The highlight is Dave-FM's Mara Davis and V-103's Wanda Smith giving away door prizes, which leaves the crowd in side-splitting laughter.  The food is good and plentiful.  And oh, by the way, there's a presentation of the latest Arbitron numbers for all stations.

The Arbitron review is presented by Charlie Sislen of Research Director, Inc.  Sislen knows Arbitron like the back of his hand and puts on an informative session.  He's excellent at explaining methodology and trends to non-research people.  And at least we're eating while he's talking.

Prior to the PPM's arrival in Atlanta, Sislen said something with which I agreed.  In the diary days, buyers routinely used a 2 or 3 "book" average to purchase radio.  The diary results were a little jumpy so combining multiple reports increased reliability.  Sislen told us with the many more hours of measurement in each month's PPM report, versus the 3-month diary, looking at multiple months would not be necessary.  Well, a peek at Atlanta's January numbers seems to blow that theory out of the water.

Lots of eyeballs have been affixed to the ratings of Star 94 (WSTR-FM).  The highly-regarded Scott Lindy has been sculpting the station into his own Statue of David.  Star sounds much improved, which would lead one to expect ratings growth.

As I thought along those lines, something occurred to me.  If Star 94 was to grow, where would it steal audience from?  B98.5 (WSB-FM) and Q100 (WWWQ-FM) were the logical choices.  As much as I admire what Lindy is doing at Star, I realized B98.5 has a loyal audience, as does Q100, led by the Bert Show.  The going would be tough for Star, I concluded.

Out march the January numbers, and Star 94 shows a nice increase.  Yet B98.5 was back to its usual non-Christmas numbers.  So the increase must have come from Q100.  But no, Q100 had its highest ratings ever.  So where did Star 94's new listeners come from?  Country?  Speaking of which, did Country listeners suddenly stop liking the music?

92-9 Dave FM jumped dramatically to its highest numbers ever.  How did that happen?  Are Dave's ratings for real?  I'm not saying they aren't, but I want to see another month before forming an opinion.  At least, the WSB combo's increase is probably a windfall from the snowstorm.  But it's another example of why looking at more than a month seems a must.

The Media Rating Council (MRC) has granted accreditation to only three PPM markets.  Accreditation is based on two factors, sample and methodology.  Methodology is the same in all markets so it's apparently passed muster.  Sample appears to be the problem.

No one outside of Arbitron seems to be privy to what really goes on with the Atlanta sample.  Theoretically people stay in the sample for 2 years.  But is living life with a Portable People Meter attached a little hard for more than a short stint?  Have people left the sample from zip codes indexing high for Country and been replaced with folks from other parts of the market?

I've seen a PPM sample mess up a station.  Case in point: KINK-FM in Portland, the legendary AAA station.  KINK was #1 or #2 in persons 25-54 for many years.  Then came the PPM, and KINK plummeted to around 15th.  The problem was sparse Meter placement in the station's high-density zip codes.

Hey, if people want to party when their station has a banner month, I'm all for it.  Why not enjoy life's little victories?  But when it comes to advertising decisions, I'm sticking with a 2 or 3-month average.  With just 1 month, you never know in what direction things will spin.

Kramer Wins Big
I've listened to a lot of CHR morning shows, and most sound pretty much alike.  About a year ago, I mentioned a show that I thought was extraordinary and could compete with The Bert Show (if Atlanta had another CHR station to accommodate it).  The show is That Guy Kramer on Panama City's Island 106 (WILN-FM).  While I love listening on my trips to the Panhandle, I'm surprised the show is still in a market that size.

In the latest Arbitron, the Fall 2010 (diary) report, That Guy Kramer annihilated just about everything in sight.  In persons 12+ in mornings, Island 106 was in hot pursuit of Country giant WPAP-FM with a 9.4% share versus WPAP's 9.9.  In 18-34, Kramer had an unfathomable 22.9% share, more than double the #2 station and unheard of in these days of fragmented listening.  In persons 25-54, the show was #1 with 10.7% of the audience.

Congratulations to Steve Kramer as well as his co-hosts, Miguel Fuller and Holly O'Connor.

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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog:

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