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BusRadio gains industry ratings, criticism for pushing ads on kids

 

Scott Van Voorhis

Boston Herald

July 8, 2008
 

A Needham startup with dreams of building a radio empire, one school bus at a time, has achieved a ratings breakthrough of sorts.

Arbitron, the radio industry’s ratings authority, has given a green light to the methodology BusRadio Inc. uses to calculate the size of its audience, which the media company now pegs at roughly 1.5 million schoolchildren in more than 14,000 buses across the country.

But Arbitron’s decision does not sit well with BusRadio’s chief critic, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.

To the activist group, the agreement verifies its own criticism that BusRadio is all about pushing ads onto children.

BusRadio execs admit the Arbitron ruling could help the company charge higher rates for its commercial ads, which now account for four minutes of every hour of programming.

In fact, the Arbitron decision comes as BusRadio is ramping up its efforts to woo advertisers. The company recently hired Les Hollander, a former top CBS Radio ad executive.

“This is really the beginning,” Hollander said. “It gives us measurability, accountability.”

School districts get a small cut of ad revenue, but most are opting to join the BusRadio network for non-financial reasons, from enhancing bus safety to providing an alternative to raunchy fare on commercial radio, argued Michael Yanoff, co-founder and chief executive of BusRadio.

“When you are collecting data on how many kids are listening, it makes it pretty clear it’s all about the ad revenue,” said Josh Golin, a spokesman for Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.

 

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