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Old 03-28-2012, 12:16 PM   #1
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Default The truth is discriminatory (in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida & New York)

So apparently you can be sued (and forced into a settlement) for telling the truth.


A little background: Radio ratings, compiled in the US by a company called Arbitron, have historically been quite inaccurate. Essentially, a combination of surveyors calling you on the phone to ask you about your listening habits, and mailing randomly selected people little "diaries" in which you're supposed to log every time you listen to the radio.

Well, there were some problems with that system. For one, people lie. For two, people are lazy. And for three, lazy people tend to forget about their diaries until it's time to send them back in, and then just scribble a bunch of BS into them.

Several years ago, Arbitron fixed this. They came out with a product called the PPM (Portable People Meter) which is a little pager-like device you wear on your belt. It hears everything you hear, and when it detects that you're listening to a radio station, it keeps track of that. The underlying technology is indistinguishable from magic (a bunch of stuff about psychoacoustic masking of embedded recognition tones), but the fact is that the system works pretty well. A lot better than diaries and phone surveys.

As the system has been rolled out across the country one market at a time, an interesting trend has taken shape. In urban areas in particular, radio stations which play formats that might be considered to appeal primarily to brown people (Hip hop, R&B, etc), which had previously ranked very highly in the local ratings, have suffered a sharp drop in measured listenership. A lot. Like, of the 18 stations serving minority audiences in Los Angeles, 16 experienced ratings decreases in excess of 30% under the initial PPM system while three of those fell by over 70%. One station serving a mostly African-American audience was rated zero for a significant portion of the day.

Meanwhile stations broadcasting other formats (talk radio, news, etc) have risen correspondingly.

What changed? Absolutely nothing, of course. The ratings are just reflecting reality a lot more closely than they used to, by removing most of the sampling error due to, say, people falsifying their diaries. One possible inference we might draw is that people of one group might be more likely to do than people of another.

Sadly, that just won't do for many city attorneys.

Recent settlements have included $260,000 in NY, $130,000 in NJ, $400,000 in CA. All because they improved their counting skills.



Can't be bothered to cite sources. Do your own research.
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:34 PM   #2
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You do realize that the allegation is not claiming that the ppm system itself is inaccurate but that the way they marketed it and obtained a sample population was discriminatory towards minorities therefore skewing the results with a sample that was not representative of the actual population. The point is you can have a great product to record data but you data is only as good as your population. When you use flawed methods to data mine and then release a report with faulty data that results in lost revenue for the stations you misrepresented you can bet your *** they will come after you for it.
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:41 PM   #3
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Wow.

On a tangent, when was this? If it is recent, then it's good news to me, because it means there will be fewer of the hip hop crap that litter the airwaves. No wait, you said news and talk rose? Not jazz, rock, trip hop, classical? Ugh.
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:50 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by JasonC SBB View Post
On a tangent, when was this? If it is recent, then it's good news to me, because it means there will be fewer of the hip hop crap that litter the airwaves.
The system has been rolling out for the past 5 years or so, starting with the biggest markets and moving downward. I don't know the exact order in which cities are being transitioned, but I can tell you, as an anecdotal example, that it's made it at least as far down the foodchain as Orlando and West Palm Beach, as I've recently visited stations there which were equipped with the encoders.


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No wait, you said news and talk rose? Not jazz, rock, trip hop, classical? Ugh.
I just pulled some examples. In general, formats which tend to serve, shall we say, people who have jobs, tended to rise. One nontrivial factor in this was what's called incidental exposure- eg, hearing a co-worker's radio at the office, or being in a restaurant where the radio is on.

In general, it amazes me how robust this technology is. I don't know if a PPM receiver would work in a Miata with the top down, but they're able to recover a signal out of amazingly noisy environments (hardtop cars traveling on the freeway, shopping malls and similar crowded environments, etc.)
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:54 PM   #5
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Thinking more about this, follow the money. Qui bono?

The hip hop industry. The survey results would make them sh-t their pants.
They have a financial incentive to discredit the results. How would you do that? This is one way.
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:59 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Joe Perez View Post
The system has been rolling out for the past 5 years or so, starting with the biggest markets and moving downward. I don't know the exact order in which cities are being transitioned, but I can tell you, as an anecdotal example, that it's made it at least as far down the foodchain as Orlando and West Palm Beach, as I've recently visited stations there which were equipped with the encoders.
As the technology gets cheaper and the systems/methods are improved.

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I just pulled some examples. In general, formats which tend to serve, shall we say, people who have jobs, tended to rise. One nontrivial factor in this was what's called incidental exposure- eg, hearing a co-worker's radio at the office, or being in a restaurant where the radio is on.
So I'm counted as a "listener" if I'm at the gym and grit my teeth as they play hip hop, until I can't stand it anymore and ask them to change the station? (They use satellite radio btw)

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In general, it amazes me how robust this technology is. I don't know if a PPM receiver would work in a Miata with the top down, but they're able to recover a signal out of amazingly noisy environments (hardtop cars traveling on the freeway, shopping malls and similar crowded environments, etc.)
Probably the same algos used for that program that ID's a song when you let your cellphone listen to it. I predicted such software would be invented, about 10 years ago Some guy or some small company probably figured it out and patented it. It's heavy duty ----, but he's probably not rolling in money as a result, because it's not as sexy as creating a copycat of Friendster.

I'd be interested in a white paper of how it works, as I have some interest in psychoacoustics (esp as applied to sound reproduction / hifi)

At some point, you'll be able to whistle into a "Name that Tune" phone app, and voila!
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:03 PM   #7
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Yes you would be counted as a listener at the gym. The ratings are measuring exposure for the purposes of advertising. They don't care whether you like what you are hearing just that you are hearing it and therefore any ads that would play on the station aswell.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:04 PM   #8
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Yes you would be counted as a <hip-hop> listener at the gym.
<Running, screaming> Aaaaarrrrggghhh!!!!
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:10 PM   #9
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Yes you would be counted as a listener at the gym. The ratings are measuring exposure for the purposes of advertising. They don't care whether you like what you are hearing just that you are hearing it and therefore any ads that would play on the station aswell.
This is seriously bad news considering my gym always has Katy Perry going.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:15 PM   #10
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You do realize that the allegation is not claiming that the ppm system itself is inaccurate but that the way they marketed it and obtained a sample population was discriminatory towards minorities therefore skewing the results with a sample that was not representative of the actual population.
Smells like BS to me. It's in Arbitron's financial interest to produce accurate results. (Unless they unsuccessfully tried to blackmail the hip hop industry with skewed results )

The lawsuit sounds like it has no merit at all. The supposed whole idea of the law, and this lawsuit is that they are RACISTS and thus knowingly under-represented brown and black people because Arbitron's owners and execs don't like them.

As such the lawsuit is EXTORTION, or something for some DA or someone, to look good, especially to minorities.


----------------

A good friend of mine works at a tech startup, is employee #5. They got rid of an under-performing older black woman in tech support. 1 of like 3 they fired over the years. 2 months later, lawsuit. "YOU ARE RACIST THAT'S WHY YOU FIRED HER!"

Umm, there's a black guy in the same position as her, that performs well so they kept him.

"Uh, YOU FIRED HER BECAUSE SHE'S A WOMAN"

Um, employee #4 is a woman and she wasn't fired.

"Uh, YOU FIRED HER BECAUSE SHE'S OLD!"

Um, employee #2 is even older.

"YOU FIRED HER BECAUSE SHE'S AN OLD BLACK WOMAN!"

The company settled for a half year's salary to make the lawyer go away.


This is LEGALIZED EXTORTION.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:15 PM   #11
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This is seriously bad news considering my gym always has Katy Perry going.
Don't pretend like you don't like it. I mean cmon you drive a miata lol.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:20 PM   #12
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...it's made it at least as far down the foodchain as Orlando and West Palm Beach...
In before Joe gets sued by Orlando and West Palm Beach for pointing out that they are lower on the food chain than other cities.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:23 PM   #13
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Don't pretend like you don't like it. I mean cmon you drive a miata lol.
Ok, maybe a little. Wait, no I don't. Well, who's asking?
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:23 PM   #14
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It is pretty ------- annoying to have more than double my weight on deads and think, "who listens to this ----"?
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:24 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by JasonC SBB View Post
Smells like BS to me. It's in Arbitron's financial interest to produce accurate results. (Unless they unsuccessfully tried to blackmail the hip hop industry with skewed results )

The lawsuit sounds like it has no merit at all. The supposed whole idea of the law, and this lawsuit is that they are RACISTS and thus knowingly under-represented brown and black people because Arbitron's owners and execs don't like them.

As such the lawsuit is EXTORTION, or something for some DA or someone, to look good, especially to minorities.


----------------

A good friend of mine works at a tech startup, is employee #5. They got rid of an under-performing older black woman in tech support. 2 months later, lawsuit. "YOU ARE RACIST THAT'S WHY YOU FIRED HER!"

Umm, there's a black guy in the same position as her, that performs well so they kept him.

"Uh, YOU FIRED HER BECAUSE SHE'S A WOMAN"

Um, employee #4 is a woman and she wasn't fired.

"Uh, YOU FIRED HER BECAUSE SHE'S OLD!"

Um, employee #2 is even older.

"YOU FIRED HER BECAUSE SHE'S AN OLD BLACK WOMAN!"

The company settled for a half year's salary to make the lawyer go away.


This is LEGALIZED EXTORTION.
I agree that things like this happen all the time and it sickens me. However, I'm not so sure thats the case here. The prosecutors were not claiming that Arbitron was purposfully discriminatory but that they were negligent in the rollout of the system. Certain methods they used to pick a population such as reliance on land line calls have been proven to yield a less then representative population as it relates to minorities. I am not an expert in this by any means but after doing a google search and reading a handful of articles the facts of the case lead me to believe that there may be some merit to the claims.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:35 PM   #16
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And why would a company that ***** up its statistical methods be obligated to pay restitution to a group of people that have never heard of them under a law that's supposedly designed to protect them from "RACISM"?

In the words of Penn and Teller,
Bullshit!

I can understand fully if the lawsuit were from Arbitron's customers, alleging a breach of contract, with a clause that says "Arbitron will do due diligence to ensure accuracy in the sampling", and said customers refuse to pay for the bad data.

Capiche?
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:37 PM   #17
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If I open a bar after doing market research which tells me showtunes-listening **** are the biggest market, and I fucked up and missed the fact that I should be playing hip hop in said bar, why do I owe the minority community money? In what way did I injure my brown brethren?
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:40 PM   #18
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It is pretty ------- annoying to have more than double my weight on deads and think, "who listens to this ----"?
I know, it makes you wilt, huh? (As I one-leg dead lift a 30 lb dumbell on the bad-knee side of my body)
Unless they turn the sound off and show her **** on the TV.
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:47 PM   #19
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I'd be interested in a white paper of how it works, as I have some interest in psychoacoustics (esp as applied to sound reproduction / hifi)
You'll definately not find one from Arbitron. Along with Ibiquity, they're more secretive about the inner workings of their technology than Los Alamos.

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In before Joe gets sued by Orlando and West Palm Beach for pointing out that they are lower on the food chain than other cities.
Hehe.

Actually, I just checked the numbers and both Orlando and West Palm scored higher than I thought- it's market #34. WPB is market #48.

Here's the market data: http://www.arbitron.com/home/mm001050.asp (Is it just me, or is it kind of interesting that, according to Arbitron, Puerto Rico is the only place in the entire US where there are no hispanics whatsoever?)
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:48 PM   #20
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The idea behind the lawsuit is that the market relies on the data to determine advertising rates. Customers trust that Arbitron is an expert and should know how to effectively gather data. The fact that the data was faulty for reason's arbitron should have known is the case for negligence and discrimination. You act as if the money is going to minorities. It is not. It is going to the state as a penalty much like settlements from the stock rating agencies went to the feds after the financial crisis because of grossly negligent ratings
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