Tuesday, January 02, 2007

PPM Update

The Portable People Meter (PPM) was the main subject of Arbitron’s December consultant fly-in. The headline from that meeting was the PPM rollout schedule. That schedule includes the “PPM Currency Dates,” which is when your diary data can no longer be used for underwriting sales.

There were several PPM items worthy of note. Today’s post focuses on some of the issues that will affect many public radio stations. Tomorrow’s post will focus on programming analysis in a PPM world.

In-the-Book: Public radio listening will be reported with commercial radio listening. This is one of the reasons PPM will be more expensive than the current Arbitron service. It also means no more flying under the radar for public radio; a point that was made several times during the meeting. PPM should help generate more underwriting sales at public radio stations in Metros.

Metro Only: PPM will measure Metro geographies only. Diaries will still be used in the TSA and DMA. Stations outside of Metros should still encode their signals for the PPM measurement. Stations with a significant number of listeners outside of the Metro are going to be at a disadvantage in a PPM world.

PPM Versus Diary: To sell commercial stations and advertisers on PPM, Arbitron has to point out the weaknesses of the diary, even though thousands of stations will remain dependent on diary data. It seems inevitable that those stations will be perceived as having less valuable data than those with PPM. In addition to the qualitative differences, the immediacy of ratings data will be an issue. There will be 13 PPM books per year. There will be two TSA/DMA books per year. Stations with significant audiences, but not in the Metro, will not be able to deliver the audience data agencies and advertisers want when they want it.

PPM Plus Diaries: TSA, DMA, statewide, regional, and national audience estimates are headed to a mixed-methodology world. Arbitron’s current plan is to simply add Metro/PPM audience estimates to non-Metro/diary estimates for any geography bigger than a Metro. The sales currency of these estimates will be limited. Based on the tools I've seen to-date, it’s hard to imagine the hybrid PPM/Diary estimates will have much value for programming analysis. Hopefully, we can change that, at least for public radio.

The Care and Feeding of Your PPM Encoder: The PPM measurement system depends on your station embedding an Arbitron PPM code in your signal. The good news, Arbitron provides the encoder. After that, it’s up to you to make sure that it is always working properly. As far as Arbitron is concerned, your transmitter is off if your signal isn’t encoded. You won’t be measured. Arbitron is working on technologies that ID your station even if it is not encoded, but they made it clear that there are no adjustments made in the ratings for stations that don’t put out a properly encoded signal. Put another way, engineers have just become more important to your station's Arbitron success.

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