PPM enhancements extended to all markets


Arbitron announced Monday that several of the key methodology enhancements agreed to in its legal settlements with the Attorneys General of New York, New Jersey and Maryland are being extended to all Portable People Meter markets. Those include enhancements in cell phone-only sampling, address-based sampling, in-tab compliance rates and SPI (Sample Performance Indicator) response metrics. The announcement from new Arbitron CEO Michael Skarzynski notes that customers in all PPM markets will also be seeing increased transparency in PPM data.

“I am committed to continue our focus on the concerns of our PPM market customers in terms of the sample size, sample proportionality and sample quality of our PPM panels. I want to assure the industry that Arbitron is actively engaged in the continuous improvement of our PPM and Diary market services. Thanks to specific customer input, Arbitron is already making good progress on improvements in many operational areas,” said Skarzynski.

“As an integral part of the company’s continuous improvement programs, Arbitron is on track to meet or exceed 100 percent of the settlement agreement criteria with the Attorneys General of New York, New Jersey and Maryland,” he added.

Here is the list from Arbitron of the improvements being made in all PPM markets:

“Cell-phone-only sampling in all PPM markets
Arbitron will increase the sample target for cell-phone-only households in all PPM markets to an average of 15 percent by year-end 2010. In an interim step, the current target of 7.5 percent will be raised to 12.5 percent in PPM markets by year-end 2009. (Monthly milestones within each year will vary by market.)

Address-based sampling in all PPM markets
In keeping with the commitment to increase cell-phone-only sample in all markets, Arbitron is committing to the use of address-based sampling technique for at least 10 percent of its sampling efforts by late 2009 and for at least 15 percent of its recruitment efforts by the end of December 2010 in all PPM markets. (Monthly milestones within each year will vary by market.)

Arbitron has already begun using addressed-based sampling for cell-phone-only households in PPM markets. The initial returns from the first round of address-based sampling are indicating that markets such as Nassau-Suffolk and Middlesex-Somerset-Union have a cell-phone-only penetration that is significantly less than 15 percent.

Daily In-Tab Compliance efforts in all PPM markets
Arbitron is applying its average-daily in-tab benchmark of 75 percent of installed sample to all PPM markets. Arbitron is currently implementing in all PPM markets many of the techniques and methods that Arbitron is using to minimize differential compliance rates in order to fulfill the terms of the New Jersey, New York and Maryland agreements. (Specific programs and techniques are being applied based on an individual market’s in-tab performance.)

Response metric efforts in all PPM markets
The PPM markets that were first recruited in 2008 have received the benefit of the latest response rate and compliance programs starting with the very first recruitment contact. In these markets, SPI metrics are already above the commitments to New Jersey, New York and Maryland.

Arbitron will continue its focus on improving the Sample Performance Indicator in all PPM markets. Based on the progress to date in the company’s response rate programs, Arbitron has informed the MRC that it hopes to achieve a 21 percent SPI average across all PPM markets by the end of 2010.

Arbitron commitments to greater transparency
The company’s commitments to New Jersey, New York and Maryland include greater transparency in terms of information regarding PPM sample composition and other metrics of PPM services. Arbitron intends to provide this additional information in all PPM markets that many of its clients have indicated they would find useful and would help their understanding the strengths and limitations of PPM samples.

Sample distribution by zip code
Arbitron is providing in all PPM markets installation and in-tabulation data by individual zip code, along with market population data for Blacks, Hispanics and others (non-Black or non-Hispanic) for each individual zip code.

Sample composition by cell-phone-only status
Arbitron will continue its practice of publishing the percentages of installed and In-Tab cell-phone-only sample in the front of all monthly Arbitron electronic PPM market reports.

PPM response studies
The company intends for all PPM markets to benefit from the findings of a nonresponse bias study that it will conduct in the New York market by July 15, 2009. Should the findings indicate any measurable statistical bias, Arbitron will inform all clients of the identified sources of that statistical bias in the PPM methodology and will take reasonable measures to address those sources.

Additional initiatives in the continuous improvement programs
The option to see the current composition of the Hispanic sample by country of origin has been a topic of discussion with Hispanic broadcasters.

Arbitron has conducted a test of three markets selected by the Spanish Radio Association (Houston-Galveston, Los Angeles and New York) to determine if asking the country of origin question during one of the regular status calls to PPM households would have an adverse impact on the PPM sample. Early results from the test are indicating that Arbitron would be able to collect and track country of origin without affecting the quality of the sample.

The decision about moving forward with country-of-origin tracking is pending a full analysis of the test.”

Skarzynski made many of the same points in a letter he sent last week to US Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who had raised questions about the accuracy of the PPM methodology in counting Hispanics and other minorities. The letter followed a meeting between the Arbitron CEO and Menendez earlier in the month. Skarzynski’s letter emphasized the company’s commitment to improving the methodology and providing greater transparency – and noted the meetings he’s had with the Spanish Radio Association and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.

“At the same time that we are making improvements based on the input of our customers, our radio clients are also learning how to take advantage of the new PPM measurement system. We have seen changes in the ratings of many stations as programmers have made adjustments in the presentation of their programming. We have seen Urban radio come back in Houston-Galveston to consistently take the top spot. We have seen Spanish-language radio rise to number one in Dallas, which was not the case in the Diary service,” Skarzynski noted.

RBR/TVBR observation: “We would expect Arbitron to look at expanding that to other PPM markets as well” was what we said when the first AG settlements were announced, so this is just a logical progression. Meanwhile, what’s holding up Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation in more PPM markets? Well, Arbitron shed some light on that issue in its annual report to the SEC. It noted concerns about response rates, compliance rates and differential compliance rates.

“Based on initial audits completed during 2007, and our replies to the MRC’s follow-up queries, the MRC denied accreditation of the PPM ratings services in the remaining 2007 Markets during January 2008. During 2008, the MRC reaudited the Philadelphia, New York, Nassau — Suffolk (Long Island), and Middlesex — Somerset — Union local market PPM methodology and execution. The results of those reaudits, together with additional information provided by Arbitron, were shared with the MRC PPM audit subcommittee in late 2008. As of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, the denial status remains in place, and the PPM services in the Philadelphia, New York, Nassau — Suffolk (Long Island), and Middlesex — Somerset — Union local markets remain unaccredited. Among other things, the MRC identified response rates, compliance rates, and differential compliance rates as concerns it had with the PPM service in these local markets.,” Arbitron said in its SEC filing. It also noted that the MRC had not yet taken action on the accreditation applications for Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, San Jose, Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit and Washington, DC.

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