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.
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.
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.
Arbitron’s guinea pig markets for test marketing Portable People Meters have been Philadelphia and Houston, the latter being the only city accredited by the Media Ratings Council (MRC). Apparently, the accreditation was due to the recruitment process of combining telephone solicitation with person to person, door-to-door canvassing. In Philadelphia only phone recruitment, referred to as “Radio First,” is used to select panels, and is the only recruitment method chosen for all other PPM markets. About one third of Houston panelists are still recruited in person, door to door.
The next installment in this series will address concerns of the broadcast industry with political pressure, legal issues, and Arbitron's response.