Arbitron plans in-person recruitment for PPM


While there was considerable talk about measures that have been taken to improve Portable People Meter (PPM) panel performance in Monday’s monthly client call, there was no mention of a big change in recruiting methodology. That came in an SEC filing in which Arbitron disclosed that it plans to begin in-person recruitment this July in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the top 25 markets and a complete change-over to address-based sampling in all PPM markets by sometime in 2011.

That new “multimodal” recruitment approach was included in a letter that Arbitron sent earlier this month to the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by PPM critic Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). It was false testimony to that committee that led to former Arbitron CEO Michael Skarzynski being forced out of the company.

Until now, Arbitron has used in-person knocking on doors as a recruitment method only in Houston, the first PPM market to receive accreditation by the Media Rating Council (MRC) and to date the only top 10 market to be accredited. That was a carry over from an attempt at creating a ratings joint venture with Nielsen. The other two markets accredited using the phone-calling-based “radio first” recruitment methodology are much smaller: Riverside-San Bernardino and Minneapolis.

Critics of PPM, including the PPM Coalition composed of minority-focused broadcasters and agencies, have been urging Arbitron to jettison the “radio first” methodology and switch all markets to the methodology used in Houston. Now, it appears Arbitron  is doing exactly that.

Beginning with in-person recruitment in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the top 25 markets in July, the company said it has proposed to the House committee that address-based recruitment be used in all PPM markets by sometime in 2011.

Here is what Arbitron siad in its annual 10-K filing with the SEC:

“While we believe that our current PPM methodology is valid and reliable, on February 12, 2010, we submitted a proposal to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform comprised of several elements, which are designed to enhance our PPM methodology and to help better achieve MRC accreditation of the data produced by our PPM ratings service in each PPM Market as quickly as possible. The proposal includes introducing a multimodal recruitment approach that is intended to increase the participation rate of key segments of our sample that are heavily comprised of youth and minorities. Under the multimodal recruitment approach, we plan to begin in-person recruiting in July 2010. We expect that we will deploy in-person recruiting in the high density Black and Hispanic areas in the top 25 PPM Markets by year-end 2010 with full address-based sampling to be completed in all PPM Markets by 2011. In addition, we proposed to undertake several initiatives focused on minority broadcasters, including: (i) launching the previously disclosed engagement metric in the first quarter of 2010; (ii) forming a minority leadership council in Spring 2010 to bring the leadership of broadcasters and agency communities together; and, (iii) expanding our current initiatives directed toward advertiser outreach for minority radio. We also plan to renew our ongoing commitment to continuous improvement and obtaining and/or maintaining MRC accreditation for our PPM ratings service. While we have designed this proposal to accomplish the goals described above, we can provide no assurance that we will be successful.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The address-based recruitment will be more expensive for Arbitron, but then battling in court and on Capitol Hill with PPM critics has been expensive as well. While this move will end the complaints that the “good” methodology was being used only in Houston, it remains to be seen whether the change-over will result in an avalanche of new MRC accreditations of PPM markets.