How Significant Is Nielsen’s Newest PPM Problem?

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Nielsen Audio has swiftly responded to a glitch that has impacted — to some extent — data collection from Portable People Meter (PPM) panelists across all 48 markets for the first week of the December 2016 monthly survey period.


According to a statement provided Thursday afternoon by a company spokesperson, a move during the first week of November to a new audio data collection site resulted in some 8% of all installed PPMs losing connectivity, becoming inactive.

The connectivity issue could impact all PPM surveys, as data for the week ending Nov. 9 is potentially affected by inadvertent inactivity of the small amount of PPM devices.
Nielsen says its Panel Relations Specialists have already been in contact with all homes with inactive PPMs, and all affected panelists have now been sent new PPMs.

“As of today, 49% of the replacement meters are back online,” the company says. “We expect the balance to come online in the next several days.”

What does this mean for the December PPM results?

“We forecast the percentage of installed and fully operational meters eligible for in-tab will be 97% for the month of December and 92% for Week One of December across the aggregate of markets,” Nielsen says. “Weighting will adjust for demographic and geographic imbalances.”

Therefore, Nielsen assures, “buyers and sellers will be able to transact business with confidence.”

The company continues, “Please note that lower in-tab doesn’t equate to lower ratings. However, temporarily higher weights may contribute to more variation during the period of time it takes for these panelists to be back in-tab and fully accounted for.”

Nielsen adds that it is conducting an analysis to evaluate panel representation and impact to audience estimates. The company will share the results of this analysis during Thanksgiving Week, prior to the delivery of Weeklies data for Week One of December 2016.

“Nielsen is committed to meeting high quality standards and we are taking steps to assure that these type of issues do not recur,” the company said.


RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: Yikes, Nielsen. The timing for a PPM-related glitch could not come at a worse time, as the Dolan Family just launched a set-top box metrics service that will likely compete against not only comScore but you guys. With summertime concerns in Los Angeles and other recent PPM-related flubs, statements such as lower in-tab not equating to lower ratings and bold assertions that “buyers and sellers will be able to transact business with confidence” may raise more eyebrows than confidence levels among radio industry customers that wonder what is going on at Nielsen Audio. At the same time, bad PPM press ahead of its use in TV ratings could be more damning as an industry not familiar with the device finds that it may not be the heralded solution they so desperately need to truly measure anytime, anywhere viewing.

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Adam R Jacobson is a veteran radio industry journalist and advertising industry analyst with general, multicultural and Hispanic market expertise. From 1996 to 2006 he served as an editor at Radio & Records.