Arbitron beefing up diary market recruiting


Effective with the Fall 2009 survey, Arbitron says it will add cell phone-only households to its survey sample in 125 diary markets. The ratings company is also going to increase incentives to draw 18-34 participants into its surveys, while reducing incentives for the over-represented 55+ households.

The enhancements had been sought by the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council (RAC) and the company told RAC members at their July meeting to expect developments on this front by September. Today’s official announcement is the delivery on that promise.

“Continually enhancing the quality of our samples, surveys and reports is a priority for Arbitron. While our improvements in PPM markets have been getting the headlines in the past months, we have also been working to expand the scope of our efforts for diary markets,” said Arbitron CEO Steve Morris. “We’re grateful to the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council, the Small Market Owner Operator Caucus and many radio group owners for their participation, which has helped us set our priorities and shape the programs we are unveiling today,” he added.

“The Council has been working with Arbitron for quite a while on the issue of diary sample quality.  As I said following the summer RAC meeting, the diary sample issue is beyond critical.  I am encouraged by today’s announcement and the improvements that Arbitron is committed to and is implementing, especially the need for cell phone-only sampling,” said RAC Chairman Chuck DuCoty, COO of NRG Media. “The increase in cash incentives for 18-34 and a decrease for 55+ certainly makes sense as we see the decline in the 18-34 sample and the huge oversample 55+.  I am further encouraged by the openness that Arbitron has signaled toward alternatives to the paper diaries in all markets. While they have specifically talked about the deployment of online alternatives I don’t think anything is off the table. There’s more to be done and I urge them to move forward with a sense of urgency,” DuCoty told RBR/TVBR.

Arbitron said it plans to implement cell phone-only household sampling in an initial 125 diary markets starting with the Fall 2009 survey, although the specific list of markets has not yet been finalized. The ratings company said its goal is to sample cell phone-only households in all diary markets. Portable People Meter (PPM) markets already include cell phone-only households in their panels.

“Before we begin the rollout of cell phone-only sampling, we plan to give all diary markets the benefit of increased financial incentives for 18-34 year olds,” said Pierre Bouvard, Arbitron’s President of Sales and Marketing. “Along with other improvements introduced earlier this year, such as young-male promised incentives and second-chance diaries, our goal is to produce an immediate and measureable improvement in the proportionality of 18 to 34 year olds in diary markets.”

So, Arbitron is planning to increase incentives paid to households with a person between the ages of 18 to 34 in residence, while at same time reducing the cash incentives it pays to households with persons ages 55 and older only.

Arbitron also announced that it is accelerating its work to design Web-based data collection tools and test whether that could replace the paper diary as the primary means to collect data. Work has begun on designing this new approach. Methods and feasibility tests are being scheduled for 2009.

Arbitron intends to refine the concept with an approach that targets the Web-based tool as a “first choice,” particularly for younger respondents, while maintaining the option for the telephone interview or a paper and pencil-based form for older respondents.

“Web-based data collection is a promising tool when it is used with accepted probability sampling techniques,” said Sr. VP and Chief Research Officer Bob Patchen.