Portable Meter Responses Boosted

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Nielsen Media Research and Arbitron Inc. said they have substantially boosted the response rate in their joint Philadelphia test of "Portable People Meters."

Initial response rates were 8-10%, meaning only about one in 10 families recruited agreed to participate. Nielsen suggested boosting in-person recruitment and upping the payment to participants. Although Nielsen and other rating services got an exemption from do not call regs, it still proved easier to decline a call than a personal pitch, said Nielsen. The result, say both, is a response rate of more like 33%, or one in three, about the same as for set-top meters.

The low response rate was one of the problems Nielsen wanted to clear up before partnering in a nationwide rollout of Arbitron's portable people meters, but a Nielsen spokeswoman says there are still issues to be addressed and that the company won't make a decision on expanding its investment until at least early next year.

Unlike diaries, which viewers have to fill out, or local people meters, which viewers have to log in to, the PPM's register radio and TV signals within a given range of the the subject, wherever he or she is. Nielsen has been studying the meters for over a year, but still has more engineering due diligence to do. 

Nielsen is concerned that the meters would change the definition of viewing or listening, since the subject may not necessarily be paying attention to the signals being recorded. It wants to make sure clients and advertisers understand that.

While the meters could pick up the out-of-home viewing in bars, restaurants and hotels that radio and TV stations haven't been getting credit for, it could also pick up the deli blaring a radio as a subject passes by, or the TV set in department store electronics department, neither of which may be getting their message across.

"Or say you are in an apartment building, we want to make sure that the signals the PPM is picking up are not from the apartment next door," says Nielsen's Karen Gyimesi.

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