Wednesday, February 23, 2005

One Minute On PPM

One of the exciting aspects of Arbitron's Portable People Meter (PPM) technology is its capacity, given sufficient sample, to analyze minute-by-minute listening. These analyses will be useful in studying audience behavior during breaking news, special coverage, high profile interviews and features, local inserts during network programs, and even pledge drives.

But the adage, "you become what you measure," will also have more meaning. Too much focus on minute-by-minute analysis will lead to minute-by-minute programming tactics. That would not serve public radio well.

PPM presents another new opportunity that has the potential to serve public radio even better than either today's diary-based measurements or tomorrow's minute-by-minute analyses. PPM will allow us to measure audiences and their behaviors over months, even up to a year.

This longer view will help us better understand and manage the ongoing relationship between a public radio station and its listeners. We know the Cume, the total number of people who listen to public radio, will be much larger. Over a year, it could be twice as large as the weekly Cume. (Only 1 in 20 gives? Yikes!) We'll be able to analyze how people who enter the audience as new listeners develop regular listening habits. Listeners who appear to be Fringe listeners over the course of a week might very well be Core listeners over the course of a month or two.

Understanding these long-term dynamics will help us develop programming, promotion, and fundraising strategies that keep listeners and contributors for years rather than minutes.

It's an opportunity we should eagerly embrace.


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