Want to see why Arbitron only asks that panelists carry their meter eight hours a day while most people are awake twice as many hours?
Want to see why PPM may be costing radio million dollars in lost revenue?
If you really want to better understand PPM’s limitations and challenges, there's a new tool you must try.
Arbitron won’t let you experience what it’s like to be a PPM panelist. The company won't even let you carry a meter for a day or two.
The good news is that the new Quantified Self movement has created an opportunity for us all to feel what it is like to be a PPM panelist.
And you won’t like what you find out.
The Quantified Self is a movement that uses new technology in portable data acquisition to document a person’s daily activity.
One of the technologies is a new category of small fitness tracker toys devices that use an accelerometer to measure our movement throughout the day. The PPM uses a similar accelerometer to determine whether a PPM is in motion.
The Fitbit Zip is particularly interesting because in many ways it can serve as a valuable surrogate for the PPM meter.
Wearing a Fitbit Zip is just like a panelist carrying a PPM meter. And the Zip will tell you how many hours in a day a PPM meter would have been able to capture listening.
A few months ago I joined the Quantified Self moment and began wearing both a Jawbone Up and Fitbit Zip. Little did I know that I would soon develop great empathy for Arbitron’s panelists.
In the beginning I made a conscious effort to wear both the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit Zip continually.
The Jawbone slips easily onto the wrist and I quickly forgot about it. Were Arbitron’s PPM meter a bracelet, it would have captured all of my radio exposure.
The Fitbit was another matter.
First, it required some effort to securely clip it to my clothing. While it is considerably smaller than Arbitron’s PPM meter, I found it inconvenient.
When I changed clothes I had to make sure I also transferred the Fitbit Zip.
As time passed, I found myself increasingly forgetting the Fitbit, leaving it in a pocket, or forgetting it was clipped to yesterday’s pair of pants.
The Fitbit Zip was capturing less and less of my activity.
Were the Fitbit a PPM meter, it would have captured less and less of my exposure.
Mornings were particularly troublesome. I kept the Fitbit Zip on the night-stand, where a PPM docking station would possibly sit.
The graph shown above illustrates this. The graph shows my activity in quarter-hours. While I get up around 7:00 A.M., I didn't get around to attaching the Fitbit to my clothes until nearly 8:00 A.M.
Now think about a PPM panelist.
A panelist is just like a person carrying a Fitbit Zip.
It takes a conscientious effort to make sure the meter is with him/her. It is likely that from time to time the panelist is going to forget to carry it.
Arbitron must know this. How else can we explain Arbitron’s rather low bar for counting a panelist?
A panelist is required to carry his/her meter no more than eight hours a day. Just eight hours (and even less for children).
The average adult is awake 16-17 hours a day, which means that a panelist is only required to carry the meter half the day to stay in Arbitron’s good graces.
How can a meter capture all radio exposure if it is sitting at home up to half the day?
One big difference between the diary and PPM is that listening begins later in the morning for PPM. It's like PPM panelists get up later than diary keepers.
Could it be that panelists don't bother to clip-on their pager meter until they are well into their morning?
In my case, the Fitbit missed about four quarter-hours of activity in the morning before I got fully dressed.
A Fitbit Zip is $60. Even if you don’t want to join the Quantified Self movement, buy one to see what a PPM panelist goes through.
Then you’ll know where all those quarter-hours went, and why PPM may be costing radio millions of dollars.