Did Nielsen Kill The Radio Star?




July 1st, 2015

That is a question posed by the blogsite FiveThirtyEight. Author Carl Bialik looks at what happened to the Smooth Jazz format when Arbitron’s PPM devices were introduced to markets that carried that format. The results were quick and obvious. Was it disappearing/aging demographics? Format burnout? Or was it the new PPM system of gathering ratings data?

Bialik wrote: “smooth jazz is essentially dead on major-market radio. But as to what killed it… that’s a mystery that’s bedeviled the radio industry.”

Looking at metered markets, they showed a sharp decline in ratings coinciding with the launch of PPM ratings being introduced in those markets. 16 smooth jazz stations in major markets flipped to different formats soon after the introduction of PPM metering. Did the smooth jazz format not encode properly for the PPM devices to properly detect?

Rick O’Dell was the program director for Chicago’s smooth jazz station, WNUA-FM, which saw its ratings take a huge tumble at that time. He told Bialik that at that time period, “smooth jazz was at the edge of a cliff. The Portable People Meter could have helped pull the format back or push it over. It turns out PPM gave it a swift kick right over the edge.”

Bialik also looks at the Voltair processor and what its stunning results are showing the radio industry. Harker Research’s Richard Harker, who has long been pointing out problems with PPM ratings data, also contributes information to the blog, which can be read HERE.





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