Skip to main content

Portable Meter Test Draws Near

NEW YORK -The Arbitron Co., spelling out more details on the upcoming market trial of its Portable People Meter, said it expects to have a panel of 300 consumers in place by the end of February.

Arbitron last month started to recruit consumers for that two-phase test. The pager-sized meters will initially be deployed in Wilmington, Del., located in the Philadelphia DMA. Next month, the test will expand to cover that entire market.

The research firm said it has now encoded four broadcast-network television affiliates in the market, as well as 44 cable channels and radio stations. By the time the full 300-member panel is in place, Arbitron plans to have encoded more than 70 broadcasters and cable networks in the DMA, said executive vice president of PPM development Marshall Snyder.

An Arbitron spokesman would not say how many of those consumers were recruited last month.

On the client side, the spokesman explained: "Since this is a market trial, we don't have clients per se. We have stations and networks participating in the trial by encoding the signal."

In a prepared statement, Snyder said: "Having people in the U.S. actually carrying Portable People Meters to track their radio, TV and cable exposure is the high point of the ongoing research and development that hundreds of people at Arbitron have worked on over the past eight years."

Arbitron has twice field-tested the PPM abroad. Tests were conducted in Manchester, England, in 1998 and from late 1999 into early 2000.

By detecting an inaudible audio signal, the mini-meters will enable Arbitron to measure viewership of broadcast and cable programming, as well as radio listening, both inside and outside the home. At the end of every day, each participating consumer will place the PPM into a base station that recharges the device and also sends the collected codes to Arbitron for tabulation.

Because it will be able to gauge out-of-home viewing, it could eventually boost networks like ESPN, Comedy Central and The Weather Channel, by informing advertisers how many people watch in locales like bars, campus dorms or hotel rooms. But some ad agency sources said the widespread use of these devices is years away.

Last summer, Arbitron and Nielsen Media Research said the latter company would participate in the PPM test by supplying financial support and research expertise.

In fall 1998, when Arbitron first publicized its Manchester tests, a Nielsen spokesman said Nielsen was itself exploring the use of such a device as part of a 1997 agreement with Lucent Technologies.