November 12, 2008

PPM sucks for Urban Radio in the Chocolate City

Arbitron's PPM rating system seems to mean doom for some Washington, DC area radio stations. Let's look at the first ratings book under the PPM system for DC.

Keep in mind that the city itself is about 90% African American and the following stations have traditionally finished in the top 5 in ratings despite the fact that suburban Washington is mostly white.

Howard University's 96.3 WHUR is listed at #5 and usually comes in close to #1 in DC.

CBS Radio's WPGC fell to #15 from #7. This station is home to Donnie Simpson and Big Tigger.

Radio One's 93.9 WKYS dropped from #6 to #10. However Magic 102.3 WMMJ actually went up to #7 and Praise 104 WPRS went up also from #13 to #12. It should be noted that Radio One's CEO Alfred Liggins is fully on board with the PPM rating system.

Meanwhile Vinnie Brown has landed at Stevie Wonder's Los Angeles station 102.3 KJLH as Program Director. Brown left Inner City Broadcasting and stations WBLS and WLIB as Program Director and Operations Manager after 10 years of service in January and can take responsibility for bringing in the successful Steve Harvey and Wendy Williams shows. Brown was one of the first radio people that became outspoken about the PPM rating system "calling it a rating system that threaten the very survival of Black Radio".

At the time Brown said in a New York Daily News article from November 2007, "These numbers could put us out of business. And it's not just us. Listeners need to know this could threaten the future of black and Hispanic radio across the board." Read more on Vinnie Brown's career in the New York Daily News from January 2008.


  1. 1)First you say 'WDC is 90% AfrAm',
    then say 'suburban WDC is mostly Anglo'...what does this mean? Which stat is it?

    2) How does PPM work/count ratings?
    3) Did you note that Liggins supports PPM to infer that perhaps whatever company is behind PPM boosted his Radio 1 station ratings?

  2. A lot of questions here...

    In the old diary rating system, people wrote down the stations they listened to... in this PPM system, people walk around with a beeper type device that records the radio stations they are currently listening to. (Some people suggest Black folks aren't going to walk around with some sort of monitoring device)

    The problem with Arbitron's PPM, in the first two cities (Houston and Phlaelphia) that rolled-out the program is that the majority of these devices were given to listeners in the suburban areas. WHY? Simply because you had to make physical contact with the participants... Arbitron was not sending workers into the African American communities. In the old system Arbitron mailed diaires to homes.

    Now how hard would it be to just drop some PPM devices on some of the good folks in PG County, especially around Lanham. It's strange all the other urban stations in the DC area dropped and Radio One's stations actually increased.

    Please google: PPM New York attorney general Cuomo lawsuit , for information on this topic


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