Arbitron looks at upgrading diary system
Testing system to ditch pencil and paper for online entry
August 15, 2011
Tracking radio listening took a big step forward with the rollout of Arbitron’s Portable People Meter in major markets, providing media buyers with much better and more timely data about who’s listening to what stations, when and for how long.
PPMs, now in 48 markets, make up for many of the shortcomings of the old paper diary system, in which selected listeners enter in by hand what they listened to when.
Now Arbitron is looking to upgrade the diary system by taking it online, phasing out the diaries. The upgrade would affect all smaller and mid-sized markets where the diaries are still in use.
Instead of entering their data by hand and mailing the results off to the radio rating service, survey participants would enter their data online, and they could even do it via mobile devices.
The idea is now in test, under the name Project Leapfrog, and there’s no real timeframe in which it could become a reality. And it may not ever happen.
We can’t give an estimated timeframe for bringing this to market because at this point it’s still a matter of ˜if’ not ˜when,'” says Arbitron senior vice president of marketing Bill Rose.
But if it were to make it out of test, it would bring real benefit to media buyers in the form of more stable, accurate samples, and also larger sample sizes, notably among 18-34-year-olds and people over 55, both of which are hard to measure.
And of course Arbitron would gain enormously, saving on the cost of the delivery and collection of the diaries and in being able to deliver better data.
But a lot of work lies ahead to get out all the potential bugs.
The company has experimented with this idea before with a system called the e-diary but the attempt wasn’t well-executed, notes Rose. It already looked old when we launched it.”
The system now being developed would use an updated interface similar to the online registration forms consumers regularly encounter on the internet.
Each survey participant would receive an address of an Arbitron web site, accessible from any web-enabled computer, iPhone or Android-based mobile device.
At the site respondents can sign-up to take the survey, enter demographic data for each member of the household, record listening information and answer the survey questions currently at the back of the diary.
The company is currently tabulating the results of a field test that took place during May and June of this year to see how data collected online differs from diary returns.
But it’s expected that any differences will be nominal, according to researchers.
A second major change would be in how Arbitron finds people to participate in the survey.
Currently, in diary markets, Arbitron uses a combination of address and phone-based recruiting, meaning some participants are approached through the mail and others receive a phone call.
With Project Leapfrog the company is looking at moving to an all-address-based mail recruiting system, the benefit being a sample that more accurately represents the market population.
According to Rose, in an initial field test in June 2010, registration using all mail-based recruitment generated a sample showing improvements in participation primarily in the difficult-to-measure 18-34 and over-55 demographic groups.
Mail-based sampling also has economic benefits for the company.
The highest cost in Arbitron’s recruitment process is the labor costs for phone recruiting.
A less-expensive address-based system could enable Arbitron to increase the size of each market’s sample without having to charge more.
The third major change Project Leapfrog is investigating involves how the company gives out incentives to get people to become participants.
Under the current system, rewards are sent at the start of the process, regardless of whether the survey is completed. Project Leapfrog is experimenting with smaller upfront payments and greater rewards for people who finish the process.
Respondents are being given the choice of instant gratification, an Amazon.com gift-certificate that downloads automatically upon completing the survey, or a more flexible Visa gift card that is mailed to the consumer.
The change would result in another large cost savings for Arbitron, which again could be applied to increasing sample size without charging clients more.
Regardless of the results from the recent test, Rose says the most likely outcome is more testing. We learned from PPM that changing currency is a big deal.
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