This is the third installment of a series on the debut of electronic measurement for radio, digital audio platforms, and advertising agencies.
The Portable People Meter
Survey participants are provided a mobile meter the size of a cell phone, base stations for each household qualified listener, one Household Data Collection Docking Hub, and equipment allowing landline phones and Hub to co-exist in the landline jack. Everything is easy to install and is shipped to survey households.
A meter recognizes all the coded radio or digital audio an individual is exposed to during the course of a day. Part of the technology built into the meter operates similarly to the electronic ankle bracelets that utilize landline phones to monitor the location of those serving jail time at home. These meters serve two purposes: indicating motion (when a panelist is carrying the meter) and recording the exposed coded silent radio and digital signals. The motion sensor on the meter reveals if a panelist is home or away from home. Cell phone-only households (CPOs) are also provided the necessary equipment to upload measurement information.
At bedtime, each household panelist is instructed to place the meter in the base station for recharging and transference of coded broadcast signals for the day to the Household Data Collection Docking Hub. All the collected information from the individual base stations is then uploaded to a central computer at Arbitron headquarters. When docked for the night, the meter is still able to record encoded audio; however, only one hour of listening can be credited during the recharging/docking process.
The base stations have message display screens allowing for text exchanges between households and Arbitron. The meters are equipped with a motion detector, and as long as a person is breathing, moving, and wearing the meter, a green indicator light will remain on. If there is no motion for 30 minutes, a red light comes on, indicating a panelist is not wearing the meter. A unit battery lasts for 24 hours. Arbitron looks for a certain number of motion hours per day: a five-hour minimum for ages 6-17, an eight-hour minimum for ages 18+.
Motion and Listening
It is important to understand how motion relates to listening/exposure. The microphone on the meter is always on, and will record all coded audio. Meeting minimum motion requirements qualifies the panelist's recorded listening/exposure to be part of the in-tab, which means the information will count for ratings measurement. If a panelist does not meet the minimum required motion for a broadcast day (4 AM – 4 AM), none of the day’s recorded listening/exposure will be used for ratings calculations. For example, if a panelist only meets the minimum motion requirements six out of seven days, only six days of recorded information will be included in the rating results. As stated previously, the meter does two things: it records the amount of time (motion) a panelist wears a meter, and it records any radio or digital coded audio.
Panelists can listen as little or as much as they want, but the daily motion minimums have to be met for recorded listening to count for measurement. The amount of motion time is monitored and converted to a number of points earned for the day. These points determine the incentives paid to the panelist.
The next installment in this series will address uploading, editing,morning radio, expectations, and accreditation.