Veteran Talk Exec Calls Out Arbitron On PPM
August 13, 2009

The man who has presided over the longest-running ratings winning streak in a top 10 market has penned an open letter to Arbitron President Michael Skarzynski saying the company’s services “by virtue of PPM have become next to worthless, if not actually destructive to many radio broadcasters.” The bombshell letter from KGO-KSFO/San Francisco President and GM Mickey Luckoff, who also served as president of Arbitron’s Advisory Council during the development of PPM, goes on to say that the ratings company had assured that group “there would be as many meters in each market being surveyed as there were (then) diaries in each market.” Luckoff charges the number of PPM’s being placed in markets “is far short of the number originally promised and as a result some of the very same irregularities are beginning to appear as we had been accustomed to seeing in the ‘diary’ era.” Luckoff says broadcasters are now paying “far more for musch less usable data input than was ascertained in the past” and the the “promised advantage to programmers to make decisions based on PPM input is virtually non-existent.” Officials from Arbitron had not responded to our request for comment as of this posting. Following is the full text of Luckoff’s letter:

AN OPEN LETTER TO: MICHAEL SKARZYNSKI, PRESIDENT, ARBITRON

August 10, 2009

Michael Skarzynski,

Michael, you have stated your aim is to make Arbitron services “an asset to customers, and not simply a tool.”

I must state in response, Arbitron services by virtue of the PPM have become next to worthless if not actually destructive to many radio broadcasters.

While serving my last term as President of The Advisory Council we were introduced to “The People Meter” and were positively assured there would be as many meters in each market being surveyed as there were (then) diaries in each market.* With this unmistakable assurance the council encouraged Arbitron to proceed with the new technology.

The number of meters being placed in each market is far short of the number originally promised and as a result some of the very same irregularities are beginning to appear as we had been accustomed to seeing in the “diary era.”

Unfortunately for the radio broadcasting industry and the advertising community, not only was this promise never kept, but in fact only a fraction of that guaranteed number were ever placed. In the San Francisco Metro for instance, approximately 7200 diaries were distributed every quarter. Now, there are but 2000 meters—800 households surveyed for what Arbitron hopes to be for a 2-year period. While there is approximately a 6% turnover in PPM households every month (which is nice for Arbitron) enabling them to maintain their expenses it is very destructive for radio broadcasters, advertisers, etc.

Why?

One of the main sales advantages Arbitron used in their sales campaign to radio broadcasters was represented to be the ability to measure program elements, tune-in as well as tune-out features. Moreover, when the scant numbers of meter response information is “sliced and diced” the available numbers, trends etc. are of absolutely no value in making any such decision with any degree of accuracy or reliability.

Meanwhile, the broadcasters are paying far more for much less usable data input than was ascertained in the past. Having so few meters stymies the ability to measure any aspect of programming at any particular time.Therefore, the promised advantage to programmers to make decisions based upon “PPM” input is virtually non existent. And for this, our expense for this service increased by 50 percent!

This situation will continue to be magnified as Arbitron rolls out the PPM into smaller markets.

I eagerly look forward to your response.

Thanks,

Mickey

Michael Luckoff

President & General Manager

KGO/KSFO Radio San Francisco

900 Front Street | San Francisco, California 94111

(* P.S.: Verified with Arbitron employees who were present in those meetings).