Airwaves: September 5, 2008
PPM Comes to Town
Radio, in general, is ruled by ratings. It truly is run by money, in the sense that stations exist to make money for owners, but ratings, by allowing advertisers to know what stations are popular in various demographics, drive that money.
Arbitron is the big name in radio ratings now and has been for years. Decades, even. Prior to now, ratings were determined by a diary method, in which people selected by Arbitron would fill in what they listened to during the day, broken up by the quarter hour.
Now a new technology is being used. Called the Portable People Meter (PPM), it decodes a signal sent out by a station and registers what the person wearing the PPM can hear. It cant tell if that person is actually listening (think background music in an office, for example), but the idea is to increase accuracy over the diary method, which due to its reliance in recall, should be fairly easy to do.
The change in methodology is creating angst among some programmers, and the first monthly trends released by Arbitron last month showed why. Numerous stations increased their popularity, but others tanked under the new system compared with the old, leading to speculation on which formats may be in trouble.
On the short list, say some, are KLSX (97.1 FM) and KPWR (106.1 FM), which were significantly lower using the PPM. Id say its still too early to tell, but the rumor for both keeps coming back. Between the two, I would venture to guess that it is KLSX that may not make it long term (some even think a change may happen before you read this).
On the other end of the spectrum, some stations are doing quite well under the PPM. KIIS-FM was way up, as was KRTH, KBIG, and KROQ. KCBS-FMs awful Jack format almost doubled in the PPM ratings compared with the diary method, so I guess well be stuck with it for a while longer. KKGO (105.1 FM) and KLOS (95.5 FM) also look pretty good under the PPM.
Ibiquity is offering a $50 rebate for purchasers of a qualified HD Radio through September 29th; that brings the cost of HD down to as low as $50. Go to http://www.hdradio.com/rebate/ for more information.
Which model to get? Thats a tough question. I am partial to the table model radio sold by Radio Shack (Accurian TTR) and the tuners from Sangean (HDT-1 or HDT-1X) ... but thats because I own a TTR and an HDT-1. I have heard great things about a new tuner from Sony (a tuner must be connected to a separate amplifier), the XDRF1HD. Some feel the Sony may be the best analog tuner ever made, with the added benefit of HD reception, and it costs less than $100 before rebate.
HD Radio is a digital radio system that allows for extra channels on FM and potentially better sound on both AM and FM. But you need an HD radio to hear it.
What can you hear with HD? Standards, for one. More choices for adult alternative music. Fifties and sixties oldies ... commercial-free for now. And KNX (1070 AM) news sounding absolutely phenomenal.
Copyright © 2008 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
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