Four More Radio Groups Back Arbitron's Portable People Meters

Clear Channel Continues to Pursue Its Own System

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NEW YORK ( -- Arbitron has signed on four more radio groups to use its Portable People Meter electronic measurement service.
The four radio groups that signed with Arbitron were also part of Clear Channel's evaluation team that was looking into measurement systems.
The four radio groups that signed with Arbitron were also part of Clear Channel's evaluation team that was looking into measurement systems.

Bonneville, Emmis, Greater Media and Lincoln Financial joined CBS, Beasley and Spanish Broadcasting in multiyear agreements to use the service when it is deployed in the planned 50 markets.

The PPM is a small pager-like device carried by members of a panel. The device picks up inaudible signals embedded in various media, including radio, TV and in-store audio. The news is a boost to Arbitron, as some radio groups don't like that its system requires a radio station to encode its signals.

First phase: Houston
Arbitron plans to deploy its portable people meter in Houston in July, pending accreditation from the Media Ratings Council, and plans to roll it out to the top 10 U.S. markets by 2008.

Radio listening is currently measured by Arbitron's diary system, which requires members of a panel to record listening habits by hand and send in the diaries via mail. Media buyers and advertisers have described the system as "woeful" and, in the past year, radio sellers have made a more accurate passive-electronic-measurement system a priority as well.

While Arbitron has clearly had success signing on several national radio groups, it still hasn't fully convinced the giant of the industry, Clear Channel, of PPM's merits. Clear Channel doesn't like that the meters require stations to actively add an inaudible code to their signals and that the panel is required to carry around the device.

Clear Channel's RFP
Last summer, Clear Channel, which owns 1,200 stations, put out a request for proposal for an electronic radio measurement service. Clear Channel, which spends $25 million to $35 million annually on measurement, formed an evaluation team that included Entercom, Radio One, Cox and Cumulus as well as many of the radio groups that have recently committed to Arbitron. The team also includes radio media buyers and one advertiser, Ford Motor Co.

The evaluation team has narrowed the search to two finalists: the PPM and a Media Audit/Ipsos system that uses smart phones and audio matching to measure stations that choose not to encode their signals. The evaluation team issued the following statement: "This doesn't change the RFP process -- these companies have made independent decisions. We're continuing with the RFP process so that the industry can make a fully informed decision."

Clear Channel Radio responded with its own statement as well, saying it "remains committed to getting the most accurate, credible, reliable measurement and will see the RFP through."
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