NYSE-listed Arbitron is slowly embracing digital.
Two and a half years ago, I met with Arbitron to talk about radio's need to get digital and break away clean from the old diary system.
At the time, Arbitron was still in test mode for their new portable "personal people meter" (PPM) and not getting much positive industry response.
Keep in mind...Arbitron has been "developing" its PPM device since the mid-90s. What's been developed and successfully launched since? (Hmmm, let's see, the iPod, Google, YouTube, digital cable TV, mp3s, Colbert Report, wikis, MySpace, Firefox, etc.)
I stressed the importance for Arbitron to position the change just like a system software change, as Apple has done when it changed from System 9 to Mas OS X or Microsoft has done with Windows (98 to ME to XP to Vista).
People understand digital system operating software updates. Especially media people. However, change is hard even when it is necessary. Arbitron felt it had many "masters" to serve (radio, advertisers, media buyers, agencies, investors...and Wall Street shareholders), requiring them inch forward cautiously and carefully to ensure the investment was wise.
This easing-in process succeeded creating one thing perceptually: a lack of confidence. Being a ratings recall company, Arbitron knows the value of perception.
I was thanked for my time...and watched very little change (at least publicly) in more than 2 years.
Today, Arbitron is still trying to gradually introduce the PPM...with some success in select test markets (such as Houston and Philadelphia) as shown for consulting Fly-Ins and web seminars. But lack of confidence still reigns...despite all parties' acknowledging the shift to digital ratings is essential.
Does Arbitron need some Stuart Smalley "Daily Affirmation" lessons?
In related PPM rollout news, another part of my conversation with Arbitron on digital ratings was about measuring In-Mall Advertising consumption, where moving, static and video ad boards emit digital code RF signals right along with code-embedded radio stations and other media and then measured by PPM devices worn by mall shoppers.
On Monday, Arbitron announced their first public test results for what they call their Mall Radio Network ratings system, showing great promise. Glad to see the results -- the Jointblog agrees this is a valuable new digital opportunity for media.
It's a new product the radio industry should to better understand the value of PPM -- whether from Arbitron or from some MediaAudit smartphone.
Electronic digital media is everywhere and capable to measuring real-time audience traffic and usage than the old diary recall system. Considering radio is a $20 billion advertising revenue industry, digital ratings system will provide more accountability and tranparency...with added confidence in radio's value, to boot.
Meanwhile, the on-going trial LLC digital ratings PPM partnership between Arbitron (radio's gold standard for ratings) and The Nielsen Company (the gold standard for non-radio media ratings) called "Project Apollo" continues to saunter along with renewed energy.
What is Project Apollo?
Project Apollo is a national marketing research service that collects multimedia and purchase information from a common sample of consumers in order to measure the return on investment for marketing efforts, promising to enable advertisers and media planners to know radio customers as brand buyers as well as consumers of media in a very strategic and actionable way, to help make media spending more effective and productive.Move it all forward faster....the digital revolution is well underway.
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Wednesday, February 28, 2007,