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April 15, 2015


Smokey Rivers

I would like to share some real-world observations about the detectability of PPM encoding, and its effect on the selection of program content.

Citing the phenomenon of inadequate 1-3 kHz audio content in some spoken word programming: While programming a N/T station in Phoenix, I employed a host whose performances (and I mean EVERY performance) would inevitably and predictably trigger PPM off-air alerts. The 1-3K fundamentals in their voice were weak and therefore the PPM encoding during their shift was frequently undetectable. You would never guess that from listening to the programs. But the PPM monitor knew. We altered mic processing, swapped mics, changed the PPM encoder. I think I made it onto (then) Arbitron's "Ten Most Despised" list by being a very loud and frequent voice about PPM's inability to detect certain program material which was neither loud nor frequent enough for the technology.

How about music? PPM dramatically changed the tempo balance of all broadcast formats. Ballads that traditionally tested high in active listener evaluations were generating low PPM detectablity (less present in the 1-3K range, less peaky).

Lackluster M-Score? The song is banished from airplay. Even when considering the effects of such forces as natural demographic evolution, cultural trends and technology, compare playlists of pre-PPM and post-PPM Adult Contemporary stations for tempo balance. It's hardly the same format.

In a win-at-all-costs world, you alter your content to generate the highest score. So, we've reshaped program content (down to the selection of hosts and songs) factoring in a design flaw with the measurement technique. What Frank Foti appears to be doing is unmasking the flaw and providing a path to better evaluate what people like and listen to. Bravo!

You still need cume/engagement to show up in the numbers. That requires attracting more ears, and having programming with immense listener appeal does that. So, Nielsen: admit that PPM has significant merits, all has not been lost, continuous improvement is a virtue, not a sin, and get on with making things better. I (somewhat) understand the financial implications of that...but to continue the muse that 'all is OK' is a larger tragedy. The cat is out of the bag.

I am not presently active in the industry, but remain an ardent fan of the medium.

Bill Simmons

Talk content is very high in the 1-3kHz range where voice lives. The problem are pauses. This is where something like Voltare "may" help, but most of this won't cover up the horrific programming we hear on news/talk stations nowadays. It's still programming.

Bob Wood

I'd really pursue this if I wasn't a radio ghost!
And what about the data compression in NexGen?

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