Arbitron Moves Ahead with Portable People Meter
The first phase of tests, conducted in Wilmington, DEL this summer, is complete. Arbitron will move on to a bigger test in Philadelphia next year, with hopes of marketing the PPM in the middle of the year, then moving it on to other markets.
The PPM is aimed at replacing the way Arbitron measures radio and Nielsen measures TV. The portable device is carried around by users to measure out of home media, which makes it an improvement over the at home devices viewers put on their television sets and the diaries used to record radio listening.
Results of the Wilmington test show higher media consumption, a finding that could stimulate ad sales. The total media average quarter hour numbers show that 25.6 percent of persons 12+ consumed media during a sample quarter hour with the PPM compared with 22.2 percent with the traditional measurements. Radio, broadcast TV and cable all reported higher numbers. Other findings include higher radio listening for most times of day and much higher TV viewing during prime time.
"The study demonstrates the new system captures viewing and listening the older systems don't get," says Thomas Mocarsky, Arbitron's vice president of communications. He says three key areas that were underreported with the old systems are cable TV, men and people under 35.
The study's numbers won't have an effect on media buying. "It's too early," Mocarsky says. But he indicates that the PPM will effect media buying in the future. "It shows that radio is a reach medium and has more tonnage than anyone thought." One reason the PPM will boost radio buying is that it provides long term listening numbers, compared to the one week numbers radio diaries report, he says. "It will have an effect on how agencies use the medium."
The Wilmington numbers aren't complete because they don't measure individual stations. But that will be done next year in Philadelphia with tests that will also increase the number of subjects to 1500. The program starts Jan. 2, with subjects signed up by the end of Q1 and individual station numbers compiled by the end of Q2. "It will go commercial by the middle of next year for TV and the end of the year for radio," Mocarsky says, indicating that the PPM will replace the traditional devices in Philadelphia next year.
Arbitron hopes to add four more markets by 2003 and be in the top 100 markets by 2008. But that may depend on whether Nielsen joins the PPM project. Arbitron, seeking a partner to share the high development costs, has sold Nielsen first refusal rights, but Nielsen isn't committed yet. Arbitron believes the Philadelphia numbers will convince Nielsen to join, but it remains to be seen. "If Nielsen doesn't join, we'll turn it on and compete with them," Mocarsky says, a situation that would be difficult for Arbitron, considering Nielsen's dominance in the TV market.