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Arbitron to Add Cell Households to Sample

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To increase participation of 18-34 year-olds in its radio surveys, Arbitron Monday (Sept. 15) announced an expansion of its sample quality improvement programs for diary markets.

Beginning with the fall 2009 survey, Arbitron plans to add cell-phone-only households to the survey sample in 125 diary markets. Beginning with the spring 2009 survey, Arbitron plans to increase cash and other incentives for persons 18-34 while reducing incentives for 55+-only households in all diary markets starting spring 2009. The research firm also said that it would accelerate the development and deployment of electronic and online alternatives to the paper-and-pencil diary for all markets.

"Continually enhancing the quality of our samples, surveys and reports is a priority for Arbitron," said chairman, president and CEO Steve Morris. "While our improvements in PPM markets have been getting the headlines in the past months, we have also been working to expand the scope of our efforts for diary markets."

The list of 125 markets for cell-phone-only household sampling is not finalized, but the company's goal is to sample cell-phone-only households in all diary markets. "The number of households that have 'cut the cord' and can be reached only by cell phone has risen steadily," said Arbitron president of technology, research and development Owen Charlebois. "People who live in homes that can be reached only by cell phone are more likely to be between the ages of 18 and 34. By including cell-phone-only homes in the sample frame, we will be better able to improve young adult proportionality in diary markets."

The redirection of cash incentives from older to younger households in all diary markets will start in spring 2009, though it's contingent on the success of a "live test" that will be conducted during the fall 2008 survey in selected markets. "Before we begin the rollout of cell-phone-only sampling, we plan to give all diary markets the benefit of increased financial incentives for 18-34-year-olds," said Arbitron president of sales and marketing Pierre Bouvard. "Along with other improvements introduced earlier this year, such as young-male promised incentives and second-chance diaries, our goal is to produce an immediate and measureable improvement in the proportionality of 18-34s in diary markets."

Arbitron intends to target a Web-based collection tool as a "first choice," particularly for younger respondents, while maintaining the option for the telephone interview or a paper-and pencil-based form for older respondents. Methods and feasibility tests are being scheduled for 2009. "Web-based data collection is a promising tool when it is used with accepted probability sampling techniques," said Arbitron senior VP and chief research officer Bob Patchen. "We are focusing on approaches that emphasize online participation, while giving less-Web-savvy consumers the choice of more conventional alternatives."