In an effort to extract even more money from radio broadcasters, Arbitron has followed through with its threat to banish non-subscribers from publicly available rankers.
Now pay Arbitron or you don’t exist.
But Arbitron’s scorched earth strategy has another more ominous component: terrorizing small broadcasters.
An Arbitron lawsuit filed last year against a Dothan, Alabama station illustrates the company’s increasingly aggressive effort.
Dothan is a small southern Alabama town near the Florida panhandle border. Arbitron ranks the metro number 190 out of the 300 markets the company measures.
The town’s most prominent landmark is a giant golden peanut in front of the chamber of commerce.
Serving a population of little more than 200,000 people, you’d think WKMX, the town’s CHR, wouldn’t find itself in the cross-hairs of Arbitron’s lawyers.
In a lawsuit winding its way through Gotham City’s courts, Arbitron is suing the station for $350,000 alleging copyright violations and breach of contract.
What transgressions did WKMX commit to warrant Arbitron’s wrath and a potential six figure penalty?
Apparently a radio trade story on Program Director Billy Sexauer’s morning show success caught the attention of Arbitron’s legal vultures eagles.
Not only that, the station had the chutzpah to brag on the air that it was the most listened to station in Wiregrass! (Wiregrass is a reference to the area.)
Apparently, a station can’t shout “We’re Number One!” without paying Arbitron.
Apparently a Program Director can’t brag about his/her station’s success without first checking to see if the Arbitron bill has been paid.
You see, you don’t own your numbers. You rent them. It’s like that beer joke.
Arbitron rents them to you, controls how you use them, and controls when you use them.
And if you stop paying Arb, you lose the right to even mention the ratings that you’ve already paid for.
Actions like delisting non-subscribers and suing small market ex-clients are all about intimidation, making stations think twice about cancelling Arbitron.
Radio's growth is slowing. Budgets continue to tighten.
Growing numbers of broadcasters are questioning the value of Arbitron ratings, particularly when Arbitron's revenues are growing faster than radio's.
Broadcasters are turning their backs on Arbitron's carrots, and the company has responded with sticks.
Last year Bill Kerr, Arbitron’s CEO, declared that Arbitron wanted to be an advocate for radio, a friend of the medium.
Apparently his friendship was short-lived.