I know there are some observers - and Arbitron critics - who view the story as proof of more PPM flaws. I have read the article several times - and would invite you to do the same. My "take" is that it's a generally positive referendum on an often maligned methodology. Fong-Torres, of course, takes a shot at PPM by questioning why "anyone would want to be a participant, especially for the measly money the company traditionally has doled out."
But the reality is that he found a pretty satisfied, cooperative, young (32), white-collar respondent in hi-tech San Francisco. And aside from occasionally not carrying the meter when she was out to dinner, Angella Sprauve notes, "I was a good panelist. I wore the meter all the time and followed the instructions. I didn't find it that intrusive."
Did it resemble a pager? Yes, reports Angella. But she also tells Fong-Torres that the meter and the entire process "impressed" many of her friends, several of whom thought "it was fun; everyone I knew wanted to get on the panel."
So, to review, the PPM process – according to this N of 1 – appears to have the following characteristics:
- Unfashionable. But the respondent complied most of the time anyway, and reported that it wasn't "intrusive."
- Thoroughness. She gave Arbitron major points for staying in touch with her to ensure she carried the meter and made sure it wasn't inert in her purse.
- Fair compensation. She notes that while the money from Arbitron wasn't "a lot," the cash, bonuses, and incentives to win gift cards worked for her.
- Buzzworthy. Despite its retro look, most of her friends wanted in on it.
- Able to attract young professionals. As noted, she has a professional service job, specifically, a product developer for a cosmetics company. I have heard broadcasters openly question why a professional person would carry a PPM meter. Fong-Torres found one without a problem.
All in all, if I'm a radio manager or owner of a station in a PPM market, I'm feeling pretty good about the methodology and the way that Arbitron administers this process. And as Fong-Torres points out, this respondent had been using the old meter, clearly bulkier and less attractive than the new 360 model.Full disclosure: Arbitron has hired us from time to time to conduct research, and sometimes this research has been about PPM.