Home / Portable People Meter, Part One: Arbitron and Electronic Measurement

Portable People Meter, Part One: Arbitron and Electronic Measurement

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Arbitron's new 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.

Who is Arbitron?

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.

Through the years, there have been few competitors. By default, Arbitron is currently a monopoly. Through a joint venture with The Nielsen Company, Arbitron also provides additional media and marketing research services to television, newspaper, and online industries. Its marketing and research headquarters are in Columbia Maryland, and the executive offices are located in New York City.

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.

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 Portable People Meter, because in theory, it will provide a more accurate account of listening.

The next installment of this series will cover encoders for Portable People Meters and selection of survey panels.

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About Radio Coach Sam Weaver

  • Dr. Juliann Mitchell, PhD

    I didnt know listening to the radio could be so complicated in terms of collecting data about the average listener. Very nice job, informative and up to date links on a timely and complex topic.

  • Radio has always been a sound coming out of an object, most believing it is a 7 day a week, 24 hour operation. All true for what is heard, however, commercial radio exists for profit. Therefore, there has always been a system in place to measure results and justify charging for the airing of commercials. It is a high stakes game providing salaries for all those concerned in advertising and radio.

  • Traditional radio, Internet Radio, and podcasting all require the same verbal communications skills.