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Time for Nielsen to Go Public on Voltair

Paul McLane is editor in chief of Radio World.

Nielsen should open its upcoming client webinar to the industry; and NAB and RAB need to step up in the Voltair controversy.

Eric Rhoads, publisher of trade magazine Radio Ink, makes these arguments in a blog post this week. I’ve had no conversations with Rhoads about this topic; but I’m adding my voice to his sentiment.

“Radio must not forget that they are the customers that keep Nielsen in the radio business,” Rhoads wrote. “Therefore deep third-party scrutiny of the Voltair, and this issue, is warranted. This is such an important issue that I believe the NAB and RAB should step in on behalf of their members and insist on a monitored third-party test.”

Here at Radio World we’ve been following the Voltair/PPM story for a long time, dating at least as far back to our 2009 coverage of commentaries by 25-Seven Systems’ Barry Blesser questioning watermark technologies, which laid the groundwork for Voltair. (You can see more of our past stories, including recent technical coverage, below.)

Throughout the rollout of this controversial processor, Nielsen has been tight-lipped, generally saying little to nothing in response to repeated questions — both via email, and in person at the spring NAB Show — from Radio World and other journalists.

The stakes are too high, the value of reliable measurement too great to our industry for Nielsen not to address this issue in a more open way.

All stations should now be participating in this debate and have access to Nielsen’s thinking on it (that includes trade media, so we can be sure to report the story accurately). And our industry’s trade associations need to get more visibly involved to help find an outcome everyone involved can trust.

I add this: Nielsen could work with NAB to engage a technically respected third party — the National Radio Systems Committee or NAB Labs or NPR Labs, perhaps — to conduct independent testing.

For the record, Voltair’s manufacturer is an advertiser in Radio World’s pages at times; Nielsen is not. But this issue goes beyond what’s good or bad for either company.

The Arbitron audience measurement technology that Nielsen acquired and now deploys is central to the U.S. radio industry’s nervous system. Its health matters to all of us. Nielsen should open its webinar and, more broadly, seek to create an ongoing mechanism to communicate more openly with all of the U.S. radio industry about this issue.

Radio World Voltair Coverage 2009-2015 (Sampling)
Taking a Closer Look at PPM (June 2015)

Blesser: How Radio Handles PPM Debate Will Influence Its Survival (June 2015)

Five Questions: Geoff Steadman (May 2015)

Buzz Erupts Over Voltair (April 2015)

Trouble in PPM Town: The Thrill Is Gone
(April 2015)

Blesser Talks PPM With House Oversight Committee Staff (Nov. 2009)

Blesser: Can PPM Really Detect All Audio? (Aug. 2009)