Declaring that Nielsen was working on both a smartphone as well as a watch PPM, Mr. Tunkel brushed aside continuing questions about PPM’s ability to accurately capture radio listening.
The surprise announcement was ironic for a number of reasons.
In 2005 Arbitron’s PPM faced competition from Eurisko with a smartphone alternative as well as the GFK Radiocontrol watch. All three devices could detect radio exposure, and all three were tested by the UK’s ratings service RAJAR.
PPM won the three-way competition.
It was, however, a hollow victory. RAJAR ultimately decided that passive electronic measurement was deeply flawed. It rejected PPM and instead decided to develop an electronic diary, a measurement that the UK uses to this day.
The surprising “reveal” of both a smartphone and watch alternative to the current beeper-lite PPM meter came on the heals of a number of Nielsen missteps.
March 17, 2016 Nielsen announces the launch of Digital Audio Ratings. According to Brad Kelly, Managing Director, Nielsen Audio:
With the way people consume content in a continual state of change, it’s critical to capture all the platforms where people are listening to audio....We must provide a comprehensive view of listening behavior across all platforms.
One year later, nothing.
In November we had the “Nielsen PPM Device Connectivity” fail.
The company belatedly discovered that in moving to a new collection site a number of meters had become inactive and three months later only half of the affected meters were back on line.
Then in January Nielsen proclaimed Tampa’s WYUU’s stream number one in persons 18-34, becoming the first station in any of the 48 PPM markets to achieve this accomplishment.
It was incredible.
It was incredible not in the common way the word is used, but instead as the dictionary defines incredible: too extraordinary and improbable to be believed.
The station (like virtually every other streamed station) had never appeared in the Tampa book. It was a story-book worst to first accomplishment.
Rumors began circulating that the numbers were driven by one or two heavy users of the stream. With a reported AWTE (average weekly time exposed) of nearly 36 hours, it was clear that something was odd.
Nielsen, however, defended the ratings at first:
Nielsen has a series of rigorous compliance controls designed to ensure that PPM panelists meet eligibility criteria and their credited listening is valid.
Following the (Panel Relations Specialist) training visit, the household’s meter wearing compliance behavior did not change, and per our quality assurance procedures, we removed the home effective with the start of the March survey.
The official statement is oddly reminiscent of statements of Chairman Mao’s Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. We can only hope that the two guilty panelists were not banished to the countryside. But we digress.
So perhaps the show of PPM bling was a diversion, a way to change the conversation.
Radio Insights has written frequently about the need for the PPM meter to “hear” a station for exposure credit to be given.
We’ve asserted that PPM is not capable of detecting all exposure and consequently PPM under-estimates listening.
Nielsen essentially admitted we were correct when they introduced eCBET increasing the sensitivity of the meter.
The irony probably escaped Mr. Tunkel as well as his audience, but his reveal took a few seconds as he first pulled up his jacket sleeve and then his shirt sleeve.
The watch was hidden below two layers of clothing.
Better hope panelists wear short sleeves.