Numeris CEO: Voltair Decision ‘For the Good of Everybody”

Jim MacLeod



June 16, 2015


Numeris is Canada’s non-profit, industry-owned-and-operated radio ratings and data service, based primarily out of Toronto. After some Canadian radio stations in major markets began using Voltair, Numeris members and its board began to question the fairness of having some stations use a device, while others are not. They put an immediate stop to all Canadian radio stations using Voltair, at least until some testing can be done and the industry as a whole votes upon its use. Jim MacLeod is the president and chief executive officer of Numeris. He spoke toRadio Ink about this decision…

Asked why the decision was made to abruptly stop Canadian radio stations from using the Voltair, MacLeod went into detail, saying: “Well, we have a very different measurement system than the U.S. We report at the minute level, we measure radio and television from the same panel, we use all of the layers, we report V.O.D. for television — all we use from PPM is the hardware. We use a different processing system in the back-end. We may use different edit rules… There’s very little relationship to what goes on in the U.S.”

“I think the bottom line is that when you introduce something that could differentially affect ratings potentially, you test it. You don’t dump it into the live system — you test it. So that’s all we’re doing. We had a handful of stations that had it, and the board elected to ask those stations to pause while it is tested properly, and then the industry can make a decision about what they want to do about encoding. If it ends up being Voltair, then everybody gets one. The biggest issue is that the playing field remains level. So that’s really what led to it.”

“We are industry-owned, industry governed. There’s agency and advertiser people who sit on the board and were there for this discussion and voted on this. So it’s the industry deciding for itself what it wants to do with the measurement system.”

MacLeod said he spoke with the Voltair management on Monday. He says, “I think they recognize the differences. The U.S. radio measurement is a little simpler when it’s one service reporting at quarter hours. When you report at the minute level, the effect is more dramatic or more pronounced potentially.”

He added: “Now having said that, there’s all this discussion about who has Voltair and who doesn’t have Voltair, and frankly, I don’t care. It’s done, it’s history. It’s in some of the most recent data we released. There’s a bit of a feeding frenzy going on out there because there are stations that did well that said ‘I didn’t have one of those boxes and everybody thinks I did…’ Which I think just underlines why the board decided to move on this. Up until now, everybody was treated evenly and equally, and everybody’s encoding was the same. A lot of what’s being said about stuff being hard to encode and easy to encode, it’s one small part of the system. It’s a much more sophisticated system than that.”

“So, we’ll test the thing in its entirety and we’ll see where we are. We are going to move on this very quickly and we will make sure there’s third-party oversight.” Broadcasters in the United States are still waiting for Nielsen to finish its testing of the Voltair unit, and most we speak to believe the fact that it’s taken so long makes them believe there’s something to this. Some stations are reporting better ratings after installing Voltair. Telos Alliance, the company that created Voltair, met with Nielsen in January and gave them a unit. Six months later everyone is still waiting.

MacLeod read some of the U.S. blogs on the Numeris decision and feels most of them badly misrepresented what the organization is trying to do with Voltair and its testing of it. One claimed that Numeris and Nielsen would be “circling the wagons.” MacLeod said emphatically: “We absolutely are not going to ‘circle the wagons.’ We are owned by the industry. Why on Earth would we not want the best possible encoding?”

He says the U.S. coverage “has been a little bit unbalanced about what we did.”

Asked about how entrenched America’s Nielsen is with Numeris, MacLeod clarified that Nielsen has little to do with Numeris on the radio side, but has a key role on the television side. Said MacLeod: “The television service is a joint venture with Nielsen. We merged with Nielsen for television only… but we operate the television service. The joint venture us owned by us, we have voting control over it, there’s a shareholders agreement that delegates everything to us. It is Numeris.” He added that the PPM hardware used within their radio monitoring came from Arbitron, which is now Nielsen Audio.

What Does the Canadian Decision Mean?  HERE

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