This morning’s Inside Radio features several stories about small market broadcasters dropping Arbitron’s ratings services. Citing rising costs, falling revenues, lousy sample sizes, the perrennial errors and restatements, and inadequate coverage of minority populations, a handful of broadcasters — namely those in smaller markets — are beginning to sell inventory based on results alone. And according to several of the quoted broadcast executives, it’s working.
It begs the question: did anyone ever really care about local ratings? National advertisers that buy local time probably used the numbers to allocate their spend across markets, but generally speaking, they have always been of relatively little value to local account executives. Aside from the most basic ratings figures, like cume, which can be explained relatively easily using plain language, small, local advertisers — even the sophisticated multi-unit businesses — don’t have time to understand the ins and outs of the ratings. And frankly, they don’t care. If they can’t buy a flight and see some results, then the numbers are irrelevant.
Of course, as any skilled radio tradesman will tell you, there are lots of factors involved in the success of a radio campaign: scheduling, the creative, and the duration of the campaign. And that’s where the sales staff ought to focus their efforts: helping the client build a successful campaign from the ground up, make it successful, show the client some results, and they’ll be back for more. Quarter-hour trends be damned.
So, farewell Arbitron. It’s been fun, but it seems as though you’ve overstayed your welcome.