Thursday, March 16, 2006

Does Audience 2010 Mark The End Of An Era?

The Audience 2010 project is once again proving the value of having a rich database of respondent-level Arbitron data for public radio. The industry's ability to analyze and act on this data has helped stations and networks increase audience and revenues for more than two decades. But that might be coming to an end.

Arbitron’s current planned rollout of its Portable People Meter (PPM), announced this week, puts those benefits at risk. That plan includes phasing out its current diary-based system beginning this fall.

As of now, Arbitron's PPM plans do not include making available to public radio the type of respondent-level data (currently known as mechanical diaries)
that makes analyses such as Audience 2010 possible. Respondent-level data is the basis of programming analysis tools such as the RRC's Listener PC, AudiGraphics, and even Arbitron's own PD Advantage.

Those products could work off of PPM respondent-level data if it were made available. There are no technical barriers that we know of. So far it appears that the only programming analysis tool available to public radio will be Arbitron’s proprietary software, which is being designed primarily for commercial broadcasters.

Audience 2010 is a terrific example of how public radio uses respondent-level Arbitron data in ways that commercial radio has yet to mine. It would be a shame if the switch to PPM suddenly limited public radio to using only commercial-radio analyses to make and track programming decisions.

I've noted before on this blog that PPM holds great promise for public radio (One Minute On PPM).

Those hopes are based on the assumption that public radio will have direct access to respondent-level PPM data so it can continue to analyze Arbitron data in ways that are appropriate and productive for public radio.

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