The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

10 September 2008

Civil RIghts Activists, Cuomo, NYC Council Denounce 'Racist' Radio Ratings


Accurate Audience Measurement System Denounced

Why would anyone fear the most accurate, high tech radio ratings system ever invented?

Just ask elected officials in New York, such as Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the New York City Council, as well as the left wing, so-called civil rights activists who have spent more than a year working to shut down Arbitron's new Portable People Meter system. They can't wait to kill it and may succeed in doing just that.

Today, they're leading the charge against PPM, with Cuomo wasting tax money to open an investigation, while the council has just held a hearing on the matter.

Under the old diary-based system, cheating was a cinch: major fans of a program could simply "vote" for it by recording a wildly inflated amount of listening over the week-long survey period. This tended to favor Hip Hop and perhaps one or two other formats where listeners have a particularly strong devotion to the music and personalities.

In New York, where dueling Hip Hop morning hosts actually provoked violence, the stakes were high. For several years, it began to resemble gang warfare, with call letters replacing traditional designations.

While the PPM system has already been implemented in a number of major cities, New York was forced to abandon it after a one-month trial last year resulted in collapsing Hip Hop numbers and a surge for conservative news talk radio.

Interestingly, in San Francisco, more recent PPM results have shown large drops for both liberal and conservative talk radio.

Here's what this site had to say in November 2007 about the first results under PPM, versus the old diary-based system:

WABC's outgoing Curtis & Kuby Show, bumped for the return of ratings- challenged Don Imus, had been undercounted by 75,000 weekly listeners. Under the new system, their audience looks especially strong and termination all the more foolish.

Between 10am and 3pm, a period that includes Rush Limbaugh, WABC was shorted 96,000 listeners, which now appear under PPM. Total weekly reach for the station during this time period is now estimated at 646,000.

Sean Hannity was the biggest winner under PPM: his audience was found to be 182,000 persons larger than previously believed, bringing the the station's 3-7pm total to 642,000.

And at night, a similar story: a 154,000 undercount under the diary system, bringing WABC's 7pm - midnight tally to 438,000.

No wonder the Sharptonians want a recount: this is the worst news they've heard in years. Not only is gang- banging hip hop far less popular than anyone previously believed, but conservative talk radio is much bigger in New York City than expected.

For years, talk radio programmers have felt the old system punished talk radio, calling the phenomenon "phantom cume". Now the proof is at hand, using scientific methodology.

And from Brian Stelter in today's New York Times:

Arbitron produces radio ratings that are used to buy and sell advertising time. Despite resistance from some broadcasters, the company has gradually introduced the personal people meter, a cellphone-size device that recognizes which station is being tuned in. The company estimates the audience size for radio stations by extrapolating from the results of its consumer sample.

Arbitron says the devices are more accurate than diaries, which are based on recall.

Initial tests of the meter last year showed steep ratings declines for some radio stations that cater to minority groups and younger listeners. James L. Winston, the executive director of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, said the people meters were not measuring an adequate sample of African-Americans and Hispanics, thus putting stations with urban formats at a disadvantage.

“The sample size they are conducting their studies with is too small, and that causes their data to be unreliable,” Mr. Winston said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Arbitron maintained that the audience sample that had been selected to carry the people meters “fully represents the diversity of New York radio markets.” The company previously delayed the introduction of the meters in New York by nine months to improve the diversity of its sample, and it says that the sample is now broadly inclusive.

Minority broadcasters had encouraged the attorney general’s office and other government agencies to investigate Arbitron’s use of people meters. A coalition of broadcasters petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to intervene last week, and the commission is now conducting a public comment period.

Mr. Cuomo’s office is going further. On Tuesday it issued a subpoena to gather information about the people meters.

And from All Access, a major industry trade publication, here's an account of what "civil rights" pressure groups argued before the council today:

NABOB Exec. Dir And General Council JAMES WINSTON testified that, "I am here to talk about the greatest threat to the survival of minority owned radio in the UNITED STATES."

He continued, "ARBITRON maintains a monopoly over the business of measuring the audiences of radio stations. The existence of ARBITRON's monopoly means that, if radio stations do not subscribe to the ARBITRON ratings service, those stations will have no ratings data to present to advertisers who purchase advertising time on radio stations. In short, radio stations live and die according to the audience ratings and market ranks reported by ARBITRON."

"It is for this reason that NABOB is asking that the FCC and other government entities investigate ARBITRON's PPM audience measurement system, said WINSTON. "ARBITRON has been denied accreditation by the MRC in both NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA. The failure of ARBITRON to obtain MRC accreditation for PPM in PHILADELPHIA and NEW YORK is a situation that calls for investigation, because that failure suggests that there are other deficiencies in the methodology that are not yet apparent."

"If ARBITRON is allowed to move forward issuing flawed reports on African American and Hispanic audiences, it will result in huge financial losses for radio stations serving those audiences and might even force some stations out of business."

NABOB refers to the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.

Funny enough, within the industry, Arbitron has a history of bending over backwards to make sure minorities were well- represented in the ratings. At times, they've even been accused by some of oversampling certain groups, Hispanics in particular. That's what makes these arguments seem so peculiar.

The bottom line is this: so-called "urban" stations enjoyed years of wildly inflated audience estimates that resulted in unsustainable ad rates. Now that an accurate system for measuring listenership has finally come along, it has been turned into a political issue by those who stand to lose the most money. Recruited for this dubious "cause" are pressure groups who have succeeded in generating political momentum.

That Cuomo and other Democrats would be foolish enough to go along with this scheme demonstrates shameless liberal pandering toward a bunch of nattering nabobs.

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

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  • Not to suggest any conflicts of interest, but Russell Simmons has been a longtime political ally of Andrew Cuomo. He even endorsed Cuomo for governor in 2002 over the African-American State Comptroller Carl McCall, which raised eyebrows at the time.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 September, 2008 15:40  

  • No matter what city I'm in I like to listen to KRAP.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11 September, 2008 15:57  

  • As free market kind of guy, I have to ask what business is it of the government's what system is used to count listeners. This seems like a market issue.

    But, we are dealing with the New York SSR here, where *everything* is the state's business.

    Isn't the genie out of the bottle, anyway, if advertisers know that the ratings books don't jibe with a less manipulable way of counting listeners?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11 September, 2008 21:42  

  • the people meter proved what we all knew, conservative radio has an older demographic, the highest rating WABC got was 19th place 25-54
    they did not crack the top 20 for 18-49 demos...WOR not seen in either major demo...
    Brian........I told you PPM would reveal con radio's audience is over 55+........ Once more I know this business...Maloney is spinning... only urban station that bombed was hot97, the people whining about this were wrong. 4 of the 10 top stations were urban, 97.9, power 105, kiss, and bls.....

    according to allaccess, con radio flopped in major demos

    from all

    25-54: CLEAR CHANNEL landed the top four spots. Classic Rock WAXQ (Q104) and Top 40 WHTZ (Z100) tied for 1st place. AC WLTW (LITE-FM), which was #1 in JULY, slipped to 3rd. Rhythmic AC WKTU was a solid 4th. Four of the next five stations are ethnic-targeted stations. EMMIS Urban AC WRKS ranked 5th. SBS Tropical WSKQ is a steady 6th. CBS Classic Hits WCBS-F (the one non-ethnic station in this group) is 7th. CLEAR CHANNEL Urban WWPR is 8th, with INNER CITY Urban AC WBLS, CBS AC WWFS, and CITADEL Hot AC WPLJ tied for 9th. It should be noted that all three Urban stations in NEW YORK ranked top 10 25-54.

    CBS News WINS and EMMIS Rhythmic WQHT (HOT 97) tied for 12th. WQHT took a major drop from JULY to AUGUST. CBS took the 14th through 16th positions with Sports WFAN, News WCBS-A and Rock WXRK respectively. SBS Spanish Contemporary WPAT ranked 17th -- definitely lower than where it was in the diary. UNIVISION Tropical WCAA was 18th, CITADEL Talk WABC 19th, and EMMIS AAA WRXP rounded out the top 20. WRXP has yet to gain any traction and was the lowest-rated NEW YORK FM in demo (sans Classical WQXR). WQXR didn't make the top 20 in any saleable demo.

    18-49: An almost unheard of performance here, as CLEAR CHANNEL landed the top 5 stations in the following order: Z100 (#1), WKTU and WLTW (tied for #2), WAXQ (#4) and WWPR (#5). WSKQ was the top non-CC station at #6. The fall of WQHT helped WWPR sneak into the top 5 as HOT 97 dropped from 5th to 7th. WPLJ was 8th, tied with WWFS, while WRKS rounded out the top 10. WBLS took 11th, with CBS scoring the next four stations with WCBS-FM (#12), WXRK (#13), WINS (#14) and WFAN (#15). WPAT continued to slide and now ranks 16th. WCAA and WCBS-AM tied for 17th, WRXP finished 19th, and UNIVISION Regional Mexican WQBU was 20th.

    18-34: It wasn't even a contest here as Z100 absolutely scores domination, with 45% more share than the #2 station -- sister WWPR. WQHT slid from 2nd to 3rd, with WKTU tied with WSKQ for 4th. WLTW, WXRK, WWFS, WBLS and WAXQ rounded out the top 10.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 September, 2008 12:01  

  • MOP you’re so smart. NOT

    By Blogger pf1, at 15 September, 2008 01:15  

  • Whats thge matter Pf1, I posted the truth. Right wing talk radio did terrible in the PPM in all the measured demographics.

    what that does that mean? If WABC is in the top 10 for 12+ and only landed in 19th place in 25-54 and not in the top 20 for 18-49, this means their lare audience is mostly over 55 years old, an undesirable demographic (not judged by me, but by the industry)

    in other words right wing radio has very few listeners under 55 years of age

    the same thing I predicted last year the people meter would reveal, i said this in late 2006 and also in 2007

    I was right, I know the business better thasn Maloney and Im not even involved any longer with traditional radio

    The point, conservative radio is not popular, not a hot advertising buy and irrelevant overall..

    WABC was crushed in the key demographics. PPM proved it

    nobody is pointing this out, I will over and over again, and I will point it out to potential radio buyers, I have a data base full of them, I know someone who sells spots
    I hate you scum and wish to remove the shit from the airwaves forever. This is the way to do it, point oit the obvious, the inflated 12+ numbers and low key demo numbers prove WABC has a listenrship over 55 years old

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 15 September, 2008 09:57  

  • MOP if you told the truth I would not believe you. Why would I, you have a reputation as a liar. The more nobama gets behind in the poles the more lies you tell.

    I have gotten to the point that I skim your comments and laugh at how your life must suck.

    I could care less who gets in office. They do not affect my happiness. I do not need the government to make me happy.

    I find it really funny that the Dem’s are screwing them selves by running Nobama. What’s even funnier is you think things would be better with his socialist ideas.

    By Blogger pf1, at 16 September, 2008 01:59  

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