Arbitron gives a peek at Project Leapfrog


Is it the future of smaller market radio ratings? Arbitron is trying to develop an improved alternative to its current paper diary surveys used in non-PPM markets. The second phase test is taking place now and the company took the wraps off Project Leapfrog in a webinar presentation Tuesday (5/17) afternoon.

According to Arbitron VP of Product Management Brad Feldhaus, the goals as Project Leapfrog began – other than trying to improve on Arbitron’s diaries before someone else did – were to have higher sample sizes, improved representation (which means less weighting and higher advertiser/station confidence), Internet/mobile data collection and a 100% address-based sample frame.

The first test took place in June 2010, using mail recruitment only – no phone calling – to measure Web survey registration. No actual listening data was compiled, although the participants didn’t know that. Feldhaus said the registration numbers were better than expected and especially higher than expected for 18-34-year-old participants.

The second phase test is going on now, primarily testing the Web and mobile interfaces for reporting listening. This time Arbitron will be gathering and analyzing data by demo and format, but not yet at the individual station format. Participants received pre-alert post-cards and automated pre-alert phone calls, but no recruiting calls. (Arbitron is hoping to save money by eliminating phone recruiting by human beings.)

Once people receive their Arbitron packets, they’re asked to go online and register using the individualized code in their packet. They receive a couple of bucks with the mailing, as in the past, but get two choices for incentives when they register. They can either receive a mailed gift card when the reporting period is successfully completed, or opt for instant gratification with an online gift code. During the survey each participant can report radio listening using either the online site or a mobile alternative on their smartphone. Arbitron is also offering a paper diary option to those who don’t want to use the online/mobile interfaces as a way to ensure that all ages and types of listeners are represented.

What’s the big question? When will this be implemented? “We’re really excited about this project, for a lot of reasons, inside Arbitron. We’ve talked to customers and they’re excited about it. But we can’t provide a hard date right now on this, because we’re changing the currency process. It’s a big deal. And if nothing else, our experience with PPM tells us that we expect to go through a lot of phases of testing before it is soup,” Feldhaus said. “That’s the reason we do all the testing.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Certainly PPM will be too expensive for a lot of smaller markets, even if the proprietary meters are replaced by software downloads to smartphones. This appears to be a smart move in the right direction, but broadcasters in diary markets shouldn’t become over-anxious. This is going to take some time.