Radio Coach Sam Weaver: PPM Part One

by Sam Weaver on 12/16/2008, 07:40 PM

Tags: arbitron , radio talent coach , , traditional radio , portable people meter , electronic measurement , all radio articles , programmers , diaries , radio coach sam weaver

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The new ratings measurement, the Portable People Meter, or PPM, is not magical or mystical, nor is it the greatest invention ever created to assist radio and its advertisers in separating consumers from their cash. What it will do is monitor passive radio listening, show increases, and help improve strategic marketing for businesses. It will, however, be a challenge for radio to learn how to manipulate the results of the new report card.

Arbitron Inc. is a media and marketing research firm, serving media, radio, television, cable, Internet streaming, advertisers, and advertising agencies in the United States. Its core business is to measure network and local market radio audiences, surveying retail, media, and product patterns of consumers in local markets. Arbitron provides software to analyze media audience and marketing information data. The company has now developed the Portable People Meter, a new electronic technology for media and marketing research and measuring radio. For more than 15 years, Arbitron has not had direct competition. However, in the third quarter of 2009, The Nielsen Company will provide measurement in 50 small markets and Cumulus Broadcasting has signed as a client. Meanwhile, Clear Channel will subscribe in 17 markets which offer the service. Nielsen will conduct measurements only once a year.

Electronic Measurement
The new electronic measurement tool, PPM, is an excellent showcase for publicly owned Arbitron, which of course wants to show its shareholders that it can increase or retain its stock value through more advanced offerings. For years, advertising agencies and radio have been hoping for an improved way to measure listening. This new system is a researcher’s dream, but a headache for radio programmers, sales managers, and clients. The Portable People Meter (PPM) has its own language and provides measurement for traditional radio, streaming, HD, podcasting, and satellite radio. Arbitron has made excellent use of broadcast researchers to market this GPS-like technology to the radio industry.

Two Ways to Measure
Traditional radio is becoming a tale of two societies. The PPM will be completely implemented into the top 50 markets by the end of 2010. Markets 51 and higher will continue with the paper diary to measure listening. This older method relies on participant-written accounts of daily listening. Agencies and many radio pundits are excited about the new electronic measurement, the , because in theory, it will provide a more accurate account of listening.

 Part 2 will cover the survey selection process and necessary equipment for participation.