DOES VOLTAIR DISTORT NIELSEN AUDIO PPM DATA?
I received an anonymous comment to yesterday’s post about the WBUR/WGBH NPR News battle in Boston. The writer had two questions:
What's "Boston Today"? Were you referring to RadioBoston?
You are correct. It should have read “Radio Boston.” Thanks for pointing out the typo.
Also, any analysis based on ratings in any PPM market has to be suspended indefinitely until the whole Voltair mess shakes out. Until then you don't know who's using Voltair to boost their numbers and who isn't, so [how can] you compare anyone using Nielsen numbers?
Let’s fact check your assertion.
WHAT IS A VOLTAIR?
A Voltair is a blackbox device that enhances the robustness of the Nielsen Audio digital watermark. The readability of a digital watermark is the way PPM works.
|THE VOLTAIR AT WORK • COURTESY OF THE TELOS ALLIANCE|
Voltair boxes are the product of The Telos Exchange [LINK] a television and radio technology company based in Cleveland. The folks at Telos figured out Nielsen’s proprietary algorithms for the watermark each station embeds in it’s signal to be measured in the PPM ratings.
A Voltair is like Your Watermark on Steroids. Telos sells the device as a ratings booster.
THE CASE FOR SAYING VOLTAIR SKEWS PPM DATA
The writer of the anonymous comment clearly believes that stations that use a Voltair to goose their watermarks are making Nielson Audio PPM data unreliable.
The Voltair debuted in April at the NAB Show, so there is not much research quantifying it’s impact. The hype is It Really, Really Works – more aspirational than a track record.
The Voltair discussion brings up lingering doubts about the reliability Nielsen Audio's PPM system. PPM was cooked up at Arbitron and was bought by Nielsen. Some observers say Nielsen should not have kept the PPM system proprietary to make it harder to bootleg.
THE CASE AGAINST SAYING VOLTAIR SKEWS PPM DATA
First, Voltair does skew PPM results but the real question is how much. We don’t know the answer yet.
Over the years a number of devices have claimed they boosted ratings. I’ve used a lot of them, particularly loudness enhancers. They seemed to work, a little. But at the end of the day, it is the programming that really determines listenership.
I’ve found over the years that folks who complain about the ratings tend to work at stations that aren’t doing well in the ratings. I think saying Voltair makes PPM data unreliable is killing the messenger who has a message you’d rather not hear.