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Arbitron calls the announcement "a step backward"

During last spring's NAB convention in Las Vegas, Cumulus Presient Lew Dickey announced he was looking for a new ratings service for his smaller markets, and told the world he was open for bids.  Today, the results turned to Nielsen who has moved over to radio to provide the service.  Cumulus will switch to Nielsen's ratings system in 50 small and midsize markets, while Clear Channel said it would use the service in 17 of those same areas Cumulus will still use Arbitron's service in their 12 larger markets and Clear Channel will also use Arbitron in the rest of their markets.

Arbitron shares fell 10.3% to close at $21.69. Cumulus shares slipped 4 cents to 54 cents.

Arbitron issued this statement after the announcement

“Once a year measurement is a step backward,” said Steve Morris, president, chairman and chief executive officer, Arbitron Inc.

“Advertisers have told us that radio markets need more than a once-a-year survey in order for stations to maintain accountability and recapture revenue from out-of-home, Internet and online media,” Morris added.

“We are committed to continuously improving our services for the benefit of the radio industry in markets of all sizes and we have already initiated an aggressive program of enhancements to our diary service,” Morris said.

Arbitron has previously announced a program of enhancements designed to make the diary service more useful to broadcasters, agencies, and advertisers in markets of all sizes. Arbitron’s plans include:

• Adding cell-phone-only households to the survey sample in 50 diary markets beginning with the Spring 2009 survey and expanding to 125 markets in Fall 2009; 
• Enhancing 18-34 participation by redirecting cash incentives from older to young respondents; 
• Enhancing the qualitative and consumer questions in the back of the diary; and 
• Accelerating the development and deployment of electronic and online alternatives to the paper and pencil diary for all markets.

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