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This is the fourth installment in a series on electronic measurement for radio, digital audio platforms, and advertising agencies.

The Portable People Meter (PPM) is Arbitron’s attempt to modernize the radio ratings system with electronic measurement. This installment in our series will explain how information is transmitted through the PPM. It will also correct a misconception about morning radio, expectations for and removal of panels, and accreditation.

Uploading and Editing

Sometime between the docking of the PPM, and the household hub collection of daily data, there is an upload to a central computer at Arbitron. The uploading can occur anytime up until 4 AM. Once the information reaches Arbitron, there is an editing process of coded audio, to properly assign credit to individual radio stations. Remember, stations only get listening credit from an individual panelist if the person meets the minimum motion requirement: a panelist aged six to seventeen has to carry the meter at least five hours a day; eighteen and over, it's eight hours a day.

Morning Radio

There has been some confusion about morning radio measurement; many have said that much of the listening is not being reflected in ratings. Here is an example to clarify how it actually works. The alarm clock radio goes off at 6 AM and the meter, still docked, begins to record the coded audio. Though the panelist does not indicate motion until 7:30 AM, all the recorded exposure prior to motion will count for ratings, as long as the panelist meets the minimum exposure requirements for the Arbitron broadcast day of 4 AM to 4 AM.

Panel Expectations

For a family to remain a Portable People Meter survey household, participants must maintain a solid record of compliance with the rules. If successful, a household could conceivably serve the two-year panel maximum. However, if any one member of a family does not regularly carry the meter, the entire household will be dropped from the panel and replaced.

Causes for Panel Removal

There are numerous reasons for a household to be removed as panelists from the PPM survey. Reasons include a family's request for removal, a move out of the metro area, constant disconnections of the home phone (or cell phone, in a cell phone only family) by the phone company, a radio station employing a member of the household, and others that may yet be determined. Panel relations specialists stay in communication with survey households to encourage proper usage and answer any questions.

Accreditation

Arbitron’s guinea pig markets for test marketing Portable People Meters have been Philadelphia and Houston, the latter being the first city to receive accreditation from the Media Ratings council (MRC). It is the only market combining telephone solicitation with addressed based, person to person, door-to-door canvassing. About one third of Houston panelists are still recruited using this method. Recently, Riverside-San Bernardino was awarded accreditation, like other PPM cities, only utilizes phone recruitment, referred to as “Radio First,” for panel selection. Apparently, due to cost factors, Arbitron has no plans to mirror Houston.

The next installment in this series will address concerns of the broadcast industry with political pressure, legal issues, and Arbitron's response.

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