Posts Tagged ‘Portable People Meter’

Nashville Readies for Personal People Meter Fueled Changes

June 28, 2010

Nashville, Tennessee, has just become the 44th market nationally to adopt Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) for measuring radio listenership. Considering the readings taken by the device in other markets, it is not surprising that people in Nashville are bracing for a change in the distribution of advertising funds.

As The Tennessean reports:

“It’s going to shake up the ratings and how stations are perceived by advertisers,” said Dennis Gwiazdon, president of the Nashville Area Radio Organization and vice president and general manager of South Central Media, which owns Mix 92.9 (WJXA-FM) and 96.3 JACK-FM (WCJK-FM).

“It’s definitely going to force the programming departments to be more judicious in what they play on the air.”

There is certainly precedent for this stance. Just take a look at the numbers produced for The Sean Hannity Show, which experienced a 20% drop in ratings across multiple markets after the introduction of the PPM. The Tennessean article details several more examples of a similar nature:

In Detroit, Breakfast Club morning show hosts Kevin O’Neill and Lisa Barry found themselves without a job in April when the Clear Channel-owned WNIC-FM switched to a music intensive format after PPM ratings showed the formerly No. 1 morning show was coming in at No. 11 among 35- to 64-year-old

A sample audience of 754 Nashville residents put on their PPMs and began collecting data a few days ago.  The results will be compiled and previewed by advertisers and station managers in August and then released to the public in October.

Image: Silenus81 / CC 2.0


Canadian Women, Sports Radio, and the PPM

October 12, 2009

canadaThere’s been all kinds of controversy about the Portable People Meter (PPM) introduced by Arbitron. Numerous challenges have been levied against it and its accuracy, while many others have supported its methodology and heralded it as the next clear step in harvesting audience metrics. Like most things in life, I would be willing to bet that reality falls somewhere in between.

BBM Canada, basically the equivalent of Arbitron north of our borders, just released their first round of PPM data and some interesting aspects of the system have come to light. You see, the PPM data shows a huge upswing in the number of female listeners tuning in to sports radio.

The Globe and Mail‘s Bruce Dowbiggin looks at the effect:

Why the sudden surge in female numbers for sports-talk formats? As opposed to the traditional diary methods of the past (which were often filled in after the fact by a single listener), PPMs record everyone in the vicinity of a radio or TV signal. So wives and girlfriends within earshot of sports-radio shows are now being lumped into the raw data.

“It was a factor of what I call aspirational tuning,” [David] Bray [senior vice president at Hennessy & Bray Communications] said. “Women filling in the diaries just felt better about recording CBC or light rock instead of a sports station. Now they can’t self-edit themselves with the PPMs.”

I find this extremely interesting. PPM measures your ambient soundscape, including radio that you might “tune out” in the background. This creates a far more complete image of what a person is exposed to over the course of their average day. How much of it actually registers, or registers only on a subconscious level, is impossible to say at this point. I doubt a reliable measurement of that nature can actually be made.

I do think it is important to have a window into the audioscape of our listeners, even something you tune out can make an impression after repeat exposure.  It is certainly something to think about.

I’m sure that the coming year or two (at least) will see a constant tug of war between Arbitron and Nielsen over what techniques of measurement are more accurate and why. Over time, competition should cause one or the other to field a truly superior product and approach. In the meantime, I advise keeping an eye on them both. Let’s see what the next level turns out to be.

Image: imuttoo / CC BY-SA 2.0

Urban and Hispanic Radio: Engaged and Exclusive!

March 19, 2009


Radio One regional VP Doug Abernathy is a veteran.  He’d seen firsthand the casualties sustained at the ratings level when his leading Houston-based radio stations dropped like rocks, when he converted from the old-fashioned diary method to the Portable People Meter (PPM). That was in June of last year.

In the intervening year the stations in question, Urban Adult Contemporary KMJQ-FM and Urban KBXX-FM, have been working hard to adjust their strategies based on the new ratings technology. Their course has been educational, and surprising.

Barry Fischer, Executive VP of McGavren Guild Media, which consults with Hispanic Radio, used the PPM data to validate that, according to Fischer, Hispanic stations as a whole have delivered a total of national radio cume of 7.2 – 7.6 million. He said, “Our story is not that dramatically different. Our strategy revolves around that and selling an audience that is engaged.”

Via MediaWeek:

Abernathy declared “over” the practice of advertisers using general market stations to reach black audiences and said a huge opportunity exists “to sell the exclusivity that we always thought we had and can now demonstrate. Urban and Hispanics are the most loyal audiences and you can’t get them through other stations.”

Fischer echoed the notion saying that advertisers are better off zeroing in on a smaller, more engaged audience. “Would you rather advertise on an urban or Hispanic stations that is culturally relevant, out in the community doing events that engage that audience or on a general market station that doesn’t?”

I find it interesting that this mirrors the approach many people take while using the Internet for posting content — aiming for high impact, narrower markets (while the conventional wisdom of the web, that no matter how narrow the niche there is an audience, is not quite as extreme in the world of traditional broadcast). Of course, there is the pesky little fact that radio’s evolution dictates being on the net…

Photo courtesy of Aoife city womanchile

Reader’s Top of the Charts: Radio News Hits of 2008

January 5, 2009


Today is the first of a brief series of posts that I’ll be doing that look back at 2008’s radio-oriented news in an effort to give us context for our starting point as we begin the adventure that will be 2009.

2008 was quite a year. Historic elections, advances in social media, economic news of great import, the rise of mobile as a serious platform, and many, many more events have made this a year that will have far reaching implications for everyone. Even just focusing on radio alone there were revolutionary leaps and bounds being taken throughout the prior twelve months that will shape our industry. I thought that a brief retrospective might be in order as we forge ahead into the new year.

Looking back on the news stories I have rounded up over 2008, it becomes obvious that there are two areas in particular that have been advancing at an astounding pace: technology and the global market. Our audience here on the Radio2020 Blog is also aware of these trends, as is shown by my recent glance at our logs. These are the stories that you, our readers, chose as evinced by the traffic they have received.

Let us begin with our technology posts that garnered the most attention.

The blog kicked off by looking at a great piece  by Jonathon Blum for Fortune Small Business (“Fortune Small Business Says Radio is HOT“).  The advent of new radios and other playback devices including the budding mobile market caused Blum to proclaim radio as “hot” in 2008.

The next item to have garnered consistent attention was a post about a new system for measuring audience numbers.  “The ‘Portable People Meter’ Promises Greater Accuracy in Radio Ratings” began the chronicle of the the PPM, Arbitron’s wireless device for measuring the audio signals in a person’s environment. As the year progressed, this piece of tech was consistently in the news (both good and bad) as was Nielsen’s plunge into American radio metrics at the end of the year. Audience measurement has been of increasing newsworthiness ever since due to both the rise of new media and the cratering economy.

Blackberry smart phones have been in the news a lot this year. From the attention to President-Elect Obama’s need to set his aside when inaugurated to the debut of their new Curve, Blackberries have our attention. Evidently, they have yours as well.  The  “Radio Companion” application which tracks what’s currently playing on over 2700 radio stations so you can easily see the name of a song and the artist along with integrated one-click shopping was also one of the top posts (“What Song is That? Ask Your Blackberry!“) as decided by readers.

Before we move on to the international news, there is one more subject that garnered substantial attention here: Target Spot, a new service that allows small advertisers create ads, purchase space, and manage radio campaigns through the Internet. Yet another innovative evolution into the land of cyberspace, this has become of increasing importance as the recession has begun to be felt.  (“Radio Evolution: Target Spot“)

Then there is the other great topic of the year: the global market. Numerous signs of positive growth and boundless potential exist when you take in the big picture. In India cell phones without FM receivers do not sell well at all. In Africa, radio is used to teach farming techniques to the illiterate. Here are the reader favorites dealing with the international radio scene.

In Europe, sixteen radio stations in thirteen countries united under the banner of Euranet.  With a promise of social media/ Web 2.0 tools that would allow the stations to program and/or upload their own shows this was a great step forward in the parallel evolution of radio and the web. (“Euranet Set To Launch in March“)

Then, bringing the international flavor back home to the US, Univision Radio’s AM band delivery Spanish-language programming into the United States through its Radio Cadena network grabbed the attention of readers. Hardly shocking considering the meteoric rise of the Hispanic demographic in this country. (“Radio Cadena Es Buena!“)

Surprisingly — to me, anyway — was the fact that one of the most popular stories on the blog was a look at the history of Haitian radio in South Florida. Small in scale but big on inspiration, this thirty year old format seems to have resonated with our readers.  (“30 Years of Haitian Radio“)

And lastly, while it does not concern commercial radio, the story of an FM radio signal hijacked and used for protest during the controversial Beijing Olympics captured the imagination of many readers as it did my own. A vibrant illustration of radio as a force for free speech and change, this story out of China, demonstrates the importance of radio. (“Pirate Radio at the Beijing Olympics“)

As lists are usually deemed appropos at this time of year, I will be sharing a few more over the next few weeks. Today we looked at the stories that our readers found the most popular. In a few days I will share my personal favorites as well.

What did you enjoy the most out of our 2008 content? Drop us a comment and let us know!

Photo courtesy of h. koppeldelaney, used under its Creative Commons license

PPM Data: It’s All About the Urban and Spanish Language Stations!

October 8, 2008

Last Monday, Arbitron released the Portable People Meter (PPM) findings for September. The findings are not something I personally find surprising. They validate a trend I have observed for decades: Urban and Spanish Language programming are BIG!

The PPM findings show African-Americans or Spanish-Dominant Hispanics have the highest listening numbers of all the groups measured across the new PPM radio market.

  • New York: Steve Harvey on WBLS-FM ties for Number One among Persons 25-54 in a.m. drive
  • Chicago: “Piolin por La Manana” on WOJO-FM is Number One among Persons 18-34 in a.m. drive
  • Riverside-San Bernardino: KLYY-FM Spanish Adult Hits station is Number One (Persons 25-54)
  • San Francisco: KMEL-FM Hip-Hop/R&B station is Number One (Persons 18-34)

(Details are available on MarketWatch here.)

As someone who watched hip-hop take its first steps into the mainstream back in the 1980s, I cannot say I’m surprised in the least. Every day we step further away from the mono-cultural monolith of past programming.

Photo courtesy of roland, used under its Creative Commons license

The “Portable People Meter” Promises Greater Accuracy in Radio Ratings

January 23, 2008

In the cities of Houston, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Arbitron has been test driving a new electronic ratings system called The Portable People Meter. The system is poised to launch in 14 American cities, according to an announcement today by broadcaster Entercom Communications Corp.

Wikipedia gives us a concise description of how the system works:

The Portable People Meter (sometimes mistakenly “Personal People Meter”) or PPM, is a device developed by Arbitron to measure how many people are listening (or at least exposed) to individual radio stations and television stations, including cable TV. The PPM is worn like a pager, and detects hidden audio tones within a station or network’s audio stream, logging each time it finds such a signal. It has proved to be much more accurate than the old handwritten logs or wired meters, and is immune to forgetful test subjects.

This a huge step forward from the pen and paper approach that has been used in the radio industry since the 1960s. Until recently, ratings services would pay listeners to keep a hand-written log of what they listen to — a process that is open to bias and misreporting. Finally, a more objective means of gathering data is on the horizon.

Steve Knopper at Wired Magazine applauds the advance in technology:

Now, with the introduction of its Portable People Meter, the company [Arbitron] is on the verge of a radical leap into the present. The BlackBerry-sized gadget clips to listeners’ clothing, eliminating the log. Participating broadcasts are encoded with an inaudible ID code, which is picked up by a sensor in the device — whether you’re bopping to Kylie Minogue in your car or swaying to Air Supply in the produce aisle. “Your only job is to carry it,” says Arbitron’s Thom Mocarsky. “And we know when you do.”

After five years of testing, the system was rolled out in New York and Houston this summer. It’ll go nationwide by 2010. Eventually Arbitron will have 70,000 deployed, all but banishing survey bias from the ratings. All this is good news for Aerosmith fans. Rock stations have been losing ground to hip hop, Spanish, and talk, but they score high on the People Meter.

PPM has the potential to rewrite some basic assumptions about listening habits and the impact of commercials. As the sample group expands to more cities there should be a lot of useful data generated. Take a look at the current cities listed on Arbitron’s PPM page, including lists of participating stations, technical briefings and a wide variety of additional data:

One reason advertising has gravitated to the Internet is not that it’s more effective than broadcast advertising but that it’s more trackable. If radio is reaching consumers, and no one can document it, ad sales will be lost. This technology should make it easier to quantify the reach of broadcast radio, enabling ad sales reps to approach accounts with the confidence of accurate tracking.