If you’ve followed developments, you know that 25-Seven has developed an audio processor that strengthens weak embedded PPM watermarks, the things that tell PPM that a panelist is listening to your radio station.
You’d think that is great news for radio stations and great news for radio in general.
We know from independent studies that PPM is not perfect, that PPM misses some listening. Any thing that moves PPM from (say) 70-80% accuracy to closer to 100% accuracy ought to get an honor from the NAB or maybe even Nielsen.
Nielsen has had one of the devices since last fall for evaluation. That’s about the same time that stations starting putting the units on the air.
Nielsen is still “thoroughly” examining the unit.
Radio stations didn't need a long look. Despite a quiet roll-out, word got around. It worked.
There are now something like 300 stations using the device, although few publicly admit it.
We’ve seen anywhere from single digit growth to over 50% gains in TSL. To our knowledge, not a single station has returned the unit.
Good news, right? Not to Nielsen.
Not only has Nielsen reserved judgement, they’ve decided that they want the Media Rating Council (MRC) to bless Voltair.
MRC deliberations make a mafia get-together look like a city council meeting. Deliberations are secret, criteria for granting accreditation are kept secret, and their decisions are absolutely final.
We suspect the MRC is modeled after the 13th century Vatican without the Inquisition.
In an Inside Radio interview MRC CEO George Ivie left his Cone of Silence long enough to comment on Voltair noting:
In general, changes need to be improvements in encoding or code-capture efficacy. We are very unlikely to approve degradations in these processes.
To which we can only add WTF???
The PPM codes are simply audio tones embedded in a radio station’s audio. Every station has an audio chain that includes processing. Every station.
And those audio chains vary in complexity and sophistication.
Radio stations have been trying to process their audio to “game” PPM since day one, mostly unsuccessfully. If Mr. Ivie is concerned about degradation, the MRC should grant accreditation to audio chains and Nielsen should authorize every encoder installation.
25-Seven isn’t the first to try to fix an imperfect encoding/decoding process. They just appear to have figured it out better than any before them.
For Nielsen and now the MRC to make thinly veiled threats suggesting that Voltair may potentially be somehow degrading the process is hypocritical silliness.
If anything, the processor appears to be making PPM encoding more robust. It does nothing more than help stations get credit for listening that they might have otherwise lost.
We suspect that the PPM accreditation process did not test encoding/decoding robustness with each of the dozens of formats, and the multitude of environments in which people listen to the radio, let alone with the hundreds of processors and thousands of processing chains in use today.
To single out Voltair for attention is the wrong thing on which Mr. Ivie should be focused. If he really is concerned about PPM code-capture efficacy, he should reopen the accreditation process of PPM.
He should ask Nielsen how it is that hundreds of radio stations that install Voltair get better numbers. What does that say about the intrinsic robustness of PPM?