A recent FiveThirtyEight article on the Voltair/PPM saga is another landmark moment in the growing credibility problems Nielsen is enduring this year with its inherited PPM device. Nielsen’s unwillingness to respond or vigorously deny the possible inflated numbers when stations use the Voltair meter only serve to fan the flames further, conspiracy or otherwise.
On the one hand, it makes little difference. If the Voltair audio technology does allow PPM devices to more effectively pick up more of the encoded signal that says a radio station is near, then stations should go get one. If it’s available to all, then there is no unfair advantage to those who purchase the extra boost – akin to the survival of the fittest. As Radio Consultant, Mark Ramsey argues, “Just keep in mind that all one is doing here is you are boosting exposure to an audio signal” – not listening or engagement or passion or interest or anything else.
On the other hand, the cautious approach by Nielsen here is the right one, even if it is frustrating in our fast-moving world that gravitates to immediacy and headlines, rather than process and review. The stakes here are very high. Being as thorough and rigorous as possible may save the industry from a needless exposure of a false-positive for the radio measurement industry. The credibility of the ratings would be shot and advertisers could quickly decide that radio is no longer viable in the data-rich digital age.
After al, that’s what this is about – the credibility of the ratings – and whether or not they are flawed, and if so, by how much? In the meantime, US Radio continues to wait.