Radio Waves: 3/10/17

History in the Making

For the first time ever, an internet stream had enough listeners to take the number one ratings spot in a key demographic, listeners aged 18-34.

This happened in Nielsen’s January ratings report for the Tampa, Florida area. “Maxima 92.5” WYUU’s internet stream finished first 18-34, ahead of all broadcast stations in the area, including WYUU’s own on-air signal. Quite a feat for a stream that, for at least the previous year, didn’t register enough listeners to even make the ratings at all.

History in the making, right? Absolutely. But for all the wrong reasons.

Turns out that, according to radio industry consultant Randy Kabrich who studied the issue, the impressive ratings came from two — count ‘em, two — people who probably received some sort of streaming device during the holidays and left it on WYUU continuously. The likely Nielsen Portable People Meter (PPM) holders are a Hispanic female aged 18-24 who spent 32 hours per week listening to the stream, along with a Hispanic male aged 25-34 listening 20 hours per week.

Let that sink in for a while as I recall the various problems associated with the PPM system: It doesn’t credit ratings well during spoken word programming (news, talk, DJ banter); it doesn’t work in noisy environments as when you’re in a car with windows down; it doesn’t work with headphones; it over counts background listening as in offices and stores; and there have been problems with data collection.

This latest hitch — one in which a station stream can be credited as the top station via only two listeners — proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nielsen has nothing close to as many PPMs in the field as they need to calculate accurate ratings, especially when the data is further split into various subgroup demographics. Let me be clear — the Nielsen PPM holders (the two listeners in question) did nothing wrong, and I have no doubt that they listened to the stream in question. But two people can propel the stream to the top of the ratings? In a city of over 2.5 million radio listeners? Really?

If this is not proof that Nielsen’s PPM is so severely flawed as a ratings system that its results can not be taken seriously, I don’t know what is. Radio stations have no alternative but to use it, as it is the only game in town. And some observers fault station owners for not wanting to pay the required fees that would make expanding the number of PPM holders a reality.

In my opinion, PPM is one of those things that looks great on paper, only to be proven unreliable and obviously flawed and invalid. The problem is what to do. Advertisers deserve to have a reliable determination of station ratings; it would seem that the Federal Trade Commission or Congress itself may need to get involved.

New Station in the IE

The longtime simulcast on 93.5 FM of KDAY/Redondo Beach and KDEY/Ontario has ended. KDAY will stay the course — for now — of playing classic hip-hop, but KDEY is now Wild 93.5 with an urban hits format designed to compete with KGGI (99.1 FM).

“Compete” may be s strong word, as Wild has a very limited regional signal and KGGI is a powerhouse that covers the entire Inland Empire and comes in strong even where I live in Southern Los Angeles. But if they super-serve the local community as the original license intended, it could work. Local businesses need to advertise too, and a local station is always a welcome addition to the radio landscape.

Now the choice of format? Going against KGGI … as well as the Los Angeles stations that penetrate the market … may not be the best move. As one post to the KDAY Facebook page said, “Why make a station with modern hip-pop music when we have Power 106, Real 92.3, and 99.1?? Good luck staying relevant.”