The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

06 September 2007

Rush Limbaugh, Arbitron Ratings System, Wall Street Journal


WSJ Ratings Piece Ponders Overstated Rush Audience

With the slanted coverage they've long enjoyed, no wonder liberals are up in arms over the Wall Street Journal's potential loss of editorial independence under Rupert Murdoch.

Yes, in journalism- speak, "independence" means a newsroom's freedom to be eternally liberal. And that's the mindset that most certainly clouded what should have been an uncontroversial piece about a new, high- tech radio ratings system that was profiled in today's paper.

In the story, writer Sarah McBride pondered whether the new Portable People Meter system, already tested in Philly and Houston, might hurt Rush Limbaugh's ratings once rolled out nationwide:

The People Meter, a pager-sized device that automatically registers what radio station survey participants are listening to, is already yielding more specific -- and, in some cases, surprising -- data. The results from the first two markets indicate that people flip among stations more frequently than they say, that men listen to significantly more radio than women and that employed people listen a lot more than people who don't work. While the diary system pointed to some of these findings, it typically missed how broad they are.

In the markets that have switched to the electronic ratings, rock and classic rock rank higher than before, while hip-hop and other urban music generally don't stack up as well. Perhaps most important, radio stations typically pull in a bigger audience than they thought, but that audience spends less time listening to them.

New York will begin using the electronic measurements in October, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago early next year. By the end of 2008, the system is expected to be in use in all of the Top 10 markets.

Arbitron cites several reasons for the differences in the two systems' findings. First, the sample size used for the People Meter dwarfs that used for the diaries. In Philadelphia, about 380 people reported results during any given day under the diary system, compared with a goal of about 1,530 for the People Meter.

The company also says people who record in diaries tend to report their habitual behavior -- listing shows they often listen to, for example -- rather than their actual behavior. Thus, a diary participant who said he or she listened to Rush Limbaugh every day might now be found by the People Meter to change stations more than the diary showed.

The problem with the argument is that it is speculative. Tested in only two cities, the system has so far been buggy and just weeks ago, Arbitron was forced to make an embarrassing data revision.

So why single out Rush? Who says we won't find out that listeners are underreporting conservative news/talk listening? So far, nothing has emerged that indicates Rush or any other host will suffer under the new system.

Think about it this way: the mainstream media would love to believe that Rush's ratings have been fudged for years and see this technology as solving their Limbaugh problem. That means they believe current Arbitron diarykeepers are lying, by substantially overstating the amount of time they actually do listen to his show.

To that, your Radio Equalizer says, bring on Rupert!

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  • So why single out Rush? Who says we won't find out that listeners are underreporting conservative news/talk listening?

    Because he is awful, has not been entertaining since 1991, and it hard to believe anyone could listen to his "uhhhh ahhhh" stuttering and stammering, which his show has regressed to. He is brain damamged from the 500 oxys a day. It is highly unlikely the ratings are accuarate. HE SUCKS, has sucked for over 12 years. Im not even taking into account, his mentally sick viewpoints, his hatred, his ignorance etc. The show itself SUCKS
    as do most of these horrible RNC shows. Levin, HORRIBLE, whining little bitch, lowering the discourse to a 2nd grade level, Hannity, repetative, boring, his guests guide the show. Still have not found a decent Right wing show, all HORRIBLE, maybe Savage does 1 good hour of radio a month.

    Bring on the people meter, let us see the reality of what the people actually listen to.

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 07 September, 2007 11:03  

  • This post makes no sense. The Wall Street Journal has been anything but a "liberal" paper. In fact, it is avowedly conservative (at least on its editorial page). WSJ newsroom concerns are about Murdoch changing the type of coverage, given his tendency toward the sensational (NY Post, Page 3 girls in UK, etc.).

    By Blogger Justin, at 07 September, 2007 12:51  

  • The problem with the old system, most people are too busy to write down everything they listen to, the people meter, takes away that problem.
    RNC radio has gotten these numbers, because over half of the audience is over 55, and people who are retired have more time on their hands to fill out diaries properly.

    Cons are terrified of the people meter, the people meter will reveal that Limbaugh, Levin, Hannity, etc, have tiny audiences of people under 55 and we will learn just how irrelevant they really are, hopefully and most likely stemming the endless hours of hobbible syndicated RNC propaganda, hopefully resulting in more local and diverse propgramming.

    Prediction. WABC in NYC will slip to around what Air America is getting now in NYC, a .8 rating.

    only thing that scares a con more than "muslims" "queers" "liberals" and "commies"......

    the people meter

    people meter is comming to destroy the myth of RNC radio being popular among anyone other than old folks stuck in 1947......

    people meters comming cons!!!
    lib conspiracy!!!!!

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 07 September, 2007 13:56  

  • Mop you are such a loser it’s funny.

    By Blogger pf1, at 09 September, 2007 01:18  

  • Jeeze, could you be a little more defensive and thin-skinned, Maloney? The WSJ is nothing if not conservative. Limbaugh is just a good example of a show that is likely to appear in diaries because of the habitual nature of its listenership, and less likely on the people meter because people switch stations when a topic bores them, as is the case more and more with Rush.
    Lighten up. Your credibility is on shaky ground as it is. Every time you act like a knee-jerk conservative ass, it suffers even further.


    By Blogger Mike, at 09 September, 2007 09:22  

  • The WSJ Editorial Board skews conservative. The newsroom has been notoriously liberal, and anybody who actually understands the culture there knows there is little love lost between the two.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 December, 2007 00:28  

  • I think you're way off. How is it possible that 90% of the media out there is owned by 6 MULTINATIONAL corporations and you think it's liberal? Do the research. Rush is awful, divisive garbage. He offers nothing but complaints. I'm quite sure he doesn't have that many listeners. How many books has he sold? Can't we figure it out from that?

    Anyone who says the media is liberal is a juvenile who probably believes in the myth of Jesus as well...

    By Blogger The Blunt Matt, at 13 March, 2009 18:47  

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