Friday, June 1, 2018


There was big news on Thursday from Tom Livingston, the interim Executive Director of Pacifica.  His company is beginning the search for a new, permanent Executive Director for the Pacifica Foundation.

Spark News has reported extensively in the past few months about Pacifica’s problems with debt, governance, ineffective programming and personnel matters. Things became more urgent last year when the Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) – owners of the Empire State Building – won a court proceeding calling for Pacifica to immediately pay $1.8 million in past due transmitter site fees. For a while, it looked like Pacifica was headed into bankruptcy and possible liquidation.

In late January 2018, the Pacifica National Board of Directors (PNB) hired Tom Livingston to be the interim Executive Director and his company, Livingston Associates [link[, to search for a new Executive Director. That search is now beginning. 

Tom Livingston
Livingston and the PNB have recently taken steps to deal with the most urgent problems including securing a “bridge loan” that allowed Pacifica to settle the debt to ESRT, moving the transmitter from the top of the Empire State Building to a less pricey location, preparation of tardy audits and other reports and creating a situation where the PNB can make future plans.

However, many problems remain.  The new Executive Director needs to have his/her eyes wide open when approaching this job. Pacifica is still millions of dollars in debt, the programming truly does suck and the organization is not considered a reliable business partner.

There are also many opportunities for the new Executive Director. Once, years ago Pacifica, was an important part of our national conversation. Pacifica stations are in five of the country’s biggest radio markets. This is a situation where, hopefully, a new Executive Director who is not encumbered by Pacifica’s recent past can truly make a difference.

Applications are due by June 15, 2018. For more information about the job, see the position description and application process here.

Disclosure: Ken Mills has been a business associate and friend of Tom Livingston for more than two decades. Throughout Livingston’s association with Pacifica a firewall has been maintained and no confidential information has been shared.


Our May 21st post [link] about whether the number of people of people listening to station-based streaming audio generated several reader comments.  In that story we featured a new study by Edison Research that said some audience estimates are flawed because of methodology.  We backed that notion with Nielsen Audio ratings data. According to Nielsen, very few station audio streams show up in their surveys.

In the original post, Aaron Read, Director of Information Technology & Engineering at Rhode Island Public Radio, for his comments. Read contact us with further thoughts:

Aaron Read
Read: Thanks to Ken for publishing my commentary. I’d like to add something I thought of today well after I sent him my thoughts...

While I have several well-known concerns about the Nielsen PPM system, I do want to give it credit. PPM is a strong attempt to solve the very problem I raised with Edison’s methodology.

It gets away from relying on self-reporting...which as any psychological researcher, pollster, or even readers of Freakonomics knows, it is [difficult to get] useful, accurate data.

Sure, there are gonna be tradeoffs. People often are quick to point out that PPM only measures *exposure* whereas diaries (self-reporting) measures *retention*. That is not an idle difference, but I can live with that difference just fine.

Exposure is valuable to know, too, and I think it is more important to get objective listening rather than the memory of listening.

KEN SAYS: Aaron is making an important point when he talks about the differences between “exposure” (PPM methodology) versus self-reporting (Diary methodology). We recall when PPM was first introduced, estimated weekly cumulative listeners for many stations went up and AQH share went down. The reason cited at the time was that Diary respondents over-estimated their time-spent listening. People asked if different methodologies led to different ratings for a station which number is accurate.

Here is my take on it: Both methodologies are correct because, as it says on the cover of the ratings report, the data is ESTIMATED. There are pluses and minuses with every methodology.

Spark News reports Nielsen Audio data because it is the recognized currency of the biz. Both PPM and Diary data are the de facto national standard.


On May 15th, in a post about Triple A station ratings, we praised WNCW [link] in western North Carolina for its consistent strong showing in Nielsen Audio. We received a comment from an anonymous reader who agreed with our notion:

Anonymous:  Any time that I can tune in WNCW when traveling is a good day. I’ve listened to WNCW in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee and they never let me down.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, I didn't think that I commented anonymously, but maybe I wasn't logged in.
    WNCW was one of my inspirations when starting WYLA-LP in Charleston, SC (which is now sadly off the air).