Arbitron: People Meter Tests Enter Second Phase

NEW YORK Arbitron said Monday it has already begun recruiting panelists for its second test of the portable people meter in Houston. By the second quarter of 2005, the company expects to produce initial ratings for TV, radio and cable networks in the market based on a sample of 2,100 consumers. The test will continue through winter 2006 to give the industry a full year of data to evaluate.

The Arbitron presentation, which also provided an update of the results of ongoing tests of the PPM and its deployment outside the U.S., was part of New York City’s first Advertising Week.

Unlike current TV and radio measurement techniques, the PPM measures consumers’ radio listening and TV and cable viewing using a single passive device. Worn or carried by consumers, the PPM tracks consumer exposure to media by picking up inaudible codes embedded in the radio and TV signals.

Since 2000, Arbitron has been testing the PPM in Philadelphia with the financial support of Nielsen Media Research, which has the option to join Arbitron in a commercial deployment of the PPM in U.S. local markets. Nielsen, which is owned by Adweek Magazines parent VNU, is not participating in the Houston test.

In addition to providing standard ratings information, the Houston test will provide data about consumer exposure to various media throughout the day. The Houston test will also yield new audience measures currently not available through traditional ratings services including data for live versus time-shifted audiences to VCRs, TiVO and other digital video recorders provided through cable and satellite set-top boxes, and quantitative measures of the out-of-home versus in-home TV audience.

For the Houston test, Arbitron will be using recruitment methods and techniques both Nielsen and Arbitron tested over the past year in Philadelphia. The new techniques were designed to raise the response rates for the PPM, which are now at 33-34 percent, the same levels as other accepted TV measurement services.

So far, most of the broadcast and cable outlets in Houston have agreed to encode their signals. But despite the increasing call from advertisers and agencies for more electronic measurement of all media, especially radio, some in the radio industry have been reluctant to give up the diary methodology. Cox Radio, Radio One and Infinity Broadcasting are among those who have not agreed to encode Houston.

In her presentation Monday, Roberta McConochie, director of client relations for the PPM, said the radio industry could benefit from the new measurement system. “The PPM is showing us that radio can enhance the reach of a multimedia schedule in ways that we never imagined before, when we had only separate measures of the individual media,” she said.