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Arbitron Resumes PPM Roll Out

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Arbitron officially resumed the roll out of its portable people meter service Thursday (June 12). Beginning in September, eight markets will say goodbye to diaries forever, including the nation's four largest radio markets, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and four suburban markets. The first monthly PPM survey report for those markets will be released October 8.

The eight new markets join two other PPM markets, Philadelphia and Houston, the only market that has received Media Rating Council accreditation.

Arbitron's roll out of the PPM has not occurred without controversy, not unlike what Nielsen faced when it began rolling out local people meter markets several years ago. A handful of radio groups, most notably Cox Radio, Inner City Broadcasting, and the nation's four largest Spanish-language radio groups, have been critical of Arbitron's methodology and sampling and want the service to be accredited before going live. But most radio groups, such as CBS Radio, Emmis Communications and Greater Media, believe the business cannot survive without electronic measurement as soon as possible.

With the exception of Inner City, virtually all the top radio groups have signed contracts for the PPM when it is commercialized in their respective markets.

In late fall, Arbitron put on hold the roll out, following criticism of its low samples among young and ethnic demographics in Philadelphia. Since then, the company has worked to improve its samples and response rates, but MRC accreditation has been elusive.

Meanwhile, the industry has moved forward to adopt audience posting guidelines to enhance the accountability of radio and improve the medium's persistent lackluster revenue performance. In first quarter, radio revenue fell 7 percent.

"It's time to move forward with electronic measurement for radio," said Steve Morris, chairman, president and CEO for Arbitron. "The Arbitron PPM is uniquely capable of delivering the granularity, precision and speed of reporting that can help radio make accountability initiatives a success."

There are four additional markets on Arbitron's roll out schedule for December 2008: Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit and Washington, D.C. At this time, Arbitron said it is not altering its plans.