Written Jul. 27, 2010 by Tom Webster in Research + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
In 1975, Gene Amdahl left IBM to start his own company, Amdahl Software. Amdahl felt he could compete in one area with IBM, and set out to build a better mousetrap. What he learned was that IBM was countering his sales efforts by essentially implying to his prospects that they'd be "safer" going with IBM than with some fly-by-nighter like Amdahl. Amdahl coined a term for IBM's tactics: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt - better known as FUD. When you can't compete on price or quality, FUD is your only option.
FUD is alive and well today, and equally as dangerous for the radio industry as it was for Amdahl's software venture. FUD occurs when our attention is diverted from the prize, from the main thrust of your strategy, by shadows, intimations and rhetoric. Here is the latest example, in the form of Harker Research's claim that PPM has cost the radio industry seven billion dollars.
In the search engine optimization world, they call these sorts of posts "link bait"; outrageous and calculated to drive publicity and ultimately traffic. The more sites that link to the link bait in question, the higher the "baiter" will rank for relevant keywords. (Ask your webmaster/Internet guru about "nofollow" links, which I've employed here.)
The crux of this particular FUD is that there is a gap between what Arbitron's PPM says and what Nielsen's diary methodology says, and that this gap has cost radio seven billion dollars. That's "billion," with a B. What is certainly true over the PPM years is that radio has declined about 6 billion dollars, and that PPM is one of many variables in play during that span. Ask yourself this, however: how has print done over that same span? Yellow Pages? Classifieds? Billboards? Direct Mail? Does PPM have anything to do with any of that?
More troublingly, this is a time when radio looks to those who provide it with valuable inputs like research and consultation for guidance, truth and to shine a light for the industry. This particular FUD was cooked up as a "back of the envelope" calculation. Yet, it could so easily be proven or disproven with actual existing data. How have radio's fortunes fared in the Nielsen diary markets? Are they flat? Up? Or are they, as in the PPM markets, also down considerably? This is a company with "research" in its very name; yet, in a time where the radio industry needs cold hard facts the most, Harker Research has turned its back on truth in favor of FUD.
Obviously the authors of this FUD know that some people want to believe this is true, because it's a convenient untruth, and that it will thus linger around as a canard, a nagging doubt, and a dangerous distraction. In short, pure unmitigated FUD. Let's work to make PPM the best it can be, of course. But let's all keep our eyes on the prize: content innovation, sales innovation and relationships. Nothing else matters.