ratings hit black, Latino stations in nation’s biggest market By Erik Sass
MediaPost.com (November 9, 2007) A year after Nielsen settled a bloody feud with
News Corp. over supposed minority biases in its local people meter TV
ratings system, the New York rollout of Arbitron's new portable people
meter system is proving devastating for stations with minority radio
formats in the nation's largest media market.
measurements of New York City radio listening with its Portable People
Meter technology delivered bad news for radio stations targeting
African-American and Hispanic audiences, with ratings significantly lower
than those previously generated by Arbitron's personal diary system.
Although PPM ratings won't be used as the official market currency for ad
sales until January, the October preview is giving many broadcasters cause
Among the stations taking the biggest hits were WRKS/98.7 FM, WBLS/107.5
FM, WQHT/97.1 FM, WCAA/105.9 FM, WADO/1280 AM, and WPAT/93.1 FM. As urban
and Hispanic formats tumbled, rock and contemporary formats surged, led by
WLTW/106.7 FM, WHTZ/100.3 FM, and WCBS/101.1 FM. WCBS recently ditched its
automated "Jack" programming and reverted to its "oldies" format.
Urban and Hispanic format station bosses weren't slow to express their
concern. Programming director Vinny Brown of WBLS warned the New York
Daily News that "these numbers could put us out of business," adding,
"It's not just us. Listeners need to know this could threaten the future
of black and Hispanic radio across the board." Under Arbitron's old
ratings system, based on paper diaries, WBLS captured a 5.2% share of the
25-54 demographic, but tumbled by almost half under PPM, to 3% share.
Previously in the number one spot, its flagship Wendy Williams Show now
doesn't even appear in the top 10.
According to Cox Radio CEO Bob Neil, "because the New York market is more
compact, there were some incredibly dramatic falls in terms of ranks. Both
the African-American stations and Hispanic stations had big, big
decreases." While conceding that New York's PPM results are still
"pre-currency," Neil opined, "the troubling thing is that Arbitron has
known for a while about these sampling issues, and you'd think they would
have been especially careful" in the largest market in the country.
The sharp changes in listening patterns among New York audiences closely
resemble big shifts already seen in the two markets where PPM ratings have
gone live--Philadelphia and Houston. In both places urban and Hispanic
formats took big hits in ratings, leading radio execs to complain publicly
about flaws in Arbitron's sampling methods.
In August, Alfred Liggins--CEO of Radio One, the nation's largest urban
format broadcaster--said he was troubled by "wild swings" in ratings for
Radio One's stations in Houston and Philadelphia. And on August 16th, the
National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters issued a statement
criticizing "significant flaws" in the PPM service, including substantial
under-representation of the two most important age cohorts--18-24 and
25-54--among African-Americans. NABOB chairman Jim Winston said "we have
seen all radio audiences decline, and urban radio station audiences
decline significantly, under PPM," adding, "the samples in both
Philadelphia and Houston for this demo have been consistently and
substantially below the proportion of the population represented by this
demo, and substantially below the sample size Arbitron set for itself to
According to Neil, the same problem is now also cropping up in Long
Island, the 20th largest metro in the country, where Arbitron appears to
be missing sample target sizes by a significant margin. "The total number
of 25- to-34-year-old women in their sample is 30 for the entire market,
and there's just no way that can be right."
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