The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

07 October 2008

Obama Fights To Kill 'Racist' Radio Ratings Technology


Illinois Senator Pushes Ban On Electronic Ratings Monitoring

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Though it has received little in the way of mainstream media attention to date, Barack Obama has quietly jumped into the middle of one of the kookiest conspiracy theories ever encountered in the world of broadcasting.

For over a year, so-called civil rights leaders have been battling the implementation of a new, more precise radio ratings service developed by Arbitron. Aiding their fringe cause has been New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Senator Dick Durban (D-IL) and other Democrats.

Using electronic monitoring devices known as portable people meters (PPM), the company has attempted to put an end to the wildly inaccurate, diary-based method in use for decades.

Because the new system doesn't allow cheating, meaning over-reporting listening to one's favorite programming, some specialty formats such as "Urban" and others will see substantial ratings declines under PPM.

A second concern is that ethnic minorities will be less willing to wear the PPM device than whites. But Arbitron's own data indicates that isn't the case.

And within the industry, the company's reputation has been quite the opposite, to the point where some have felt these groups were oversampled in many markets.

While hip-hop outlets take a hit, conservative news-talk is experiencing an enormous surge. In fact, newly- released PPM data issued in defiance of a lawsuit threat by Cuomo revealed huge gains by talkers across the country.

That included a massive 3.6 (spring 2008 under the old system) to 4.8 jump for New York City's conservative WABC in the overall 12 and older demographic. In Los Angeles, KFI moved from a 4.0 to 4.2, while Chicago's WLS surged from 3.0 to 4.5 and Philly's WPHT rocketed from 3.8 to 5.0. And in San Francisco, KGO moved from 5.2 to 6.5.

At WABC, Rush Limbaugh (now ranked fourth among all stations, including music, with a huge 5.3 share), Sean Hannity (third with a 4.8) and Mark Levin (first with a 6.5) have all turned in stellar numbers under PPM.

With the exception of KGO, all of these stations carry Limbaugh and most run Hannity. That gives Obama more than enough reasons to fight the PPM's introduction, which he has done with a poorly- researched letter to Arbitron's CEO, demanding the system be scrapped, at least until the Justice Brothers have had sufficient time to manipulate it to their liking.

By artificially boosting hip-hop while undermining conservative talk radio, Obama could kill two birds with one stone.

In a major blunder, Obama apparently confused Arbitron's Media Rating Council (MRC), which provides independent accrediation for their service, with the Media Research Center, resulting in an erroneous "Media Research Council" reference contained in the letter.

Reaction from key industry observers has been harsh: one called the effort to defeat PPM "moronic and selfish", while another, an Obama supporter, had this to say:

The story took a weirder turn when Barack Obama joined Dick Durbin in protesting PPM for the Chicago rollout. Full disclosure: I have contributed to the Obama campaign, and I have one of his signs on my lawn. But in the midst of the worst financial meltdown this side of Herbert Hoover, who's advising him about even commenting on radio ratings at this point in his campaign?

For its part, Arbitron has indicated that it will fight back in court against Cuomo's suit, but Obama's entrance into the debate may increase the pressure to cave into these fringe special interest groups.

Though Cuomo's action has received some mainstream press attention, Obama's role has generally been left out of their coverage. Is this because they know he's done something profoundly stupid and are covering for him as a result?

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  • Who really cares on the
    technology used to determine
    ratings? This is a non issue
    if one is not connected with
    the radio industry.
    I did not know this was a
    pro-McCain blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 October, 2008 01:44  

  • Talk show numbers might be even higher than the new technology indicates.

    One item that is not considered is the number of people who listen to talk shows via a downloadable podcast. The typical podcast audience member listens to a much higher percentage of a talk-show content vs. the normal radio listener.

    A radio listener catches talk shows when they are sitting in front of a radio. This is especially true of commuters who turn on the radio when they get in their car and turn it off when they get out, even though the show has not ended. In the home, the radio listener will catch part of the show but miss other parts when they go to other rooms in the house.

    A podcast listener will listen to to the show, not only while in the car, but also while doing other activities such as jogging or cutting the lawn.

    Some podcasts talk shows are embedding commercials into their presentations. The advertiser needs to track those numbers as well.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 08 October, 2008 03:57  

  • Cheating
    Socialistic manipulation of

    another day in Obamessiah-land

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 October, 2008 06:55  

  • Funny I have the entire book, and WABC killed in the 12+ but has AVERAGE ratings in the 25-54 and NON-EXISTENT numbers 18-34 numbers..... this indicates 80% of right wing radio's audience is over 55 years old.

    I have the book. I saw all the numbers. Those shows did great 12+ but dismal in the important demos. Why does Maloney leave this important information out?

    and WABC's CUME for the week, SUCKED, 18th place, only a little bit better than the failing Adult Album Station Emis is running 101.9 RXP. Overall WABC has barely more listeners than RXP!!! RXP is a known industry disaster.... Yet, WABC barely has more weekly listeners than 101.9 RXP......

    WABC has a decent sized, loyal base of old baby boomers, over 55.
    under 2 million a week..... To put in in perspective WABC has 1,497,900 WEEKLY LISTENERS. FOR THE WHOLE WEEK..... on the other hand NPR stations WNYC-FM and WNYC AM have a combined listenership of 822,700. So yeah.... public radio almost has as many listeners as the "champions" of talk radio, Levin, Limbaugh and Hannity

    don't believe me
    see for yourself

    under 2 million.... ranking them 19th, which is decent, but not the astonishing success Maloney tries to paint it as. In the interest of fairness, Arbitron's new system ranks 65 stations, including non-commercials. I personally like the new system, you get a real good idea as to what people are listening to.

    bottom line. WABC does terrible in the younger key demographics. Facts and only the facts

    if it makes you feel better Maloney. WWRL (commercial liberal talk outlet) did HORRIBLE. most non-commercials have more listeners, including the communist WBAI. WWRL in the CUME dept has under 200,000 weekly listeners. AWFUL, which is a .03 rating overall. Keep in mind WWRL has one of the worst signals on the dial.

    Keeping it in perspective and knocking wing nuts off their high horse for 20+ years

    your buddy Jared

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 October, 2008 15:59  

  • After reading the previous posting, I wonder what's wrong with this picture:

    Rush Limbaugh signs an 8-year contract for $400 million because his audience of 14+ million is made up of senile wheelchair oldsters?

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 08 October, 2008 17:46  

  • benson-hurst...

    "After reading the previous posting, I wonder what's wrong with this picture:

    Rush Limbaugh signs an 8-year contract for $400 million because his audience of 14+ million is made up of senile wheelchair oldsters?"

    Is that seriously how you characterize Americans over 55, most of whom I'm sure can work rings around you , any day?

    Those "senile" listeners are the only ones with sense enough to have their own money, and they're not going to stop spending it because of globalist financial "catastrophes".

    There are PLENTY of younger and young-boomerish types listening to WABC in New York.

    The difference is, it's not wise to mention this around hardcore Obama supporter-thugs, who think NOTHING of pushing a "repuke" down a flight of subway stairs, ripping them off and identity-frauding them.

    That's just the dynamic we've got nowadays, with these savages.

    As far as the youngest ones, they really don't go in for radio in general.

    Can you blame them? They look at their elders and see talk radio hasn't exactly done them a world of good....

    Believe it or not, Hannity has had an excellent, informative program lately.

    Rush, Mark, and most of that lot are resting on their laurels. Levin probably taps into today's collective anger somewhat, but that's not sustainable over the long term for the same reasons that liberal talk is dead as a doornail.

    Folks are not interested in demagoguery from extremists at either pole when serious solutions are needed.

    Who do you think will be taking over the radio stations left over after our democracy is scuttled?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 October, 2008 22:54  

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