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Paulus on Voltair: “We Are the Client Here”

Local radio exec is “thrilled and downright giddy” about the level of debate

The author is vice president/general manager of Max Media of Hampton Roads.

Well, as Jimmy Buffett would say, “It’s been quite a summer.”

When I became so vocal in the “Voltair debate” a few months ago, my only agenda was to use this topic to generate a healthy debate regarding the entire encoding and measurement system process for radio. My agenda was never to critique the validity of Voltair as a product. But, as an industry, we haven’t asked the important questions about the measurement process be it diary or PPM and the Voltair discussion provided a great basis to do just that.

What I do think I’ve been able to provide throughout this process is a clear perspective from someone who lives with these consequences day in and day out.

That’s why I felt like it was important to write this note. Imagine if you’re sitting in the quagmire of a condensed radio market, with basically the entire marketplace within a few 10th’s of a ratings point of one another and you see the image at right.

You see a station that you feel has not been reported accurately for years and basically all you see is red. Literally and figuratively

And then you start asking yourself a lot of questions: Does the guy across the street have this already? Is it real? Is it a placebo? Is this the reason why my numbers suck? Has Nielsen been scamming us all along? Have they not been scamming us all along? Should the industry rethink the entire methodology, TV and radio? How do these ratings points stack up against TV set top boxes? Do I really trust a Nielsen radio report that takes 760 pages to explain how a PPM monthly measurement is formulated in Norfolk, Va.?

So, I say, “Let’s ask the source”! Until last Tuesday the 21st, we heard nothing but crickets.

I am thrilled and downright giddy that this debate has gotten to this level. It’s long overdue and very healthy for our industry to openly question and discuss all aspects of the measurement system afforded to us, even when we disagree! It’s also my feeling that unless the major companies like iHeart, Cumulus, Cox, Entercom, Emmis, Radio One and the like, hold our ratings partner more accountable for their actions and their commitments, we’re really just a bunch of neighbors talking over the hedge about our homeowners association being unfair. To those companies who have the power, I urge you to leverage your weight to ensure that the system works to betterment of our industry. Otherwise, I promise you that we’ll all be selling 0.7’s forever.

As a reminder:

We are the client here.

So, when my kids start asking me at the dinner table “What’s going on with Voltair today?” instead of “How was your day at work?” it’s become obvious I’ve gotten a little “too engaged” on this topic. So, I’m handing the baton over to the aforementioned companies and our radio trades/bloggers that hopefully will take the leadership role. It’s certainly my desire that this intense discussion continues to hold our measurement system accountable. While there is no question that there are other pressing issues for our industry, there is nothing that will help the larger markets more quickly than making sure all appropriate encoding is being accurately measured by PPM.

“Want to survive in business? Innovate, demand accountability and trust, but always verify.” — Steve Jobs, 2007

Thank you for your thoughts, opinions and passion on this incredibly important topic for our industry.