PPM panelists will begin strapping on wristbands, attaching a clip, or maybe rocking a pendant next month as a new chapter in electronic audience measurement begins. Broadcasters are hopeful that Nielsen’s years-in-the-making wearable meters will improve compliance and in-tab rates and help restore PPM sample sizes that have been depleted by supply chain issues with manufacturers of its legacy PPM360 meters.
Tom Birch, President of Lakes Media and a member of the NAB Committee on Local Radio Audience Measurement (COLRAM), says wearables are a step in the right direction toward improving response rates. “The ultimate goal of media measurement is to reduce respondent resistance to measurement which in turn, increases response rate,” says Birch who operated the former Birch Ratings, a competitor to Arbitron in the 1980s. “The higher the response rates, the more projectable the results are to the general population.”
By miniaturizing the meter and placing it in a less cumbersome form factor than the pager-like PPM360 devices, Nielsen hopes to make them easier to carry, especially among segments of the population that have shown resistance to doing so. “The PPM Wearable is designed to improve the panelist experience, drive broader adoption among existing and new panelists, increase engagement in demographics with lower compliance and enable more precise passive measurement,” the company said in a recent memo to clients.
“The primary benefit is now there are additional options other than a beeper-looking device which may be difficult for some people to carry,” says veteran programmer Jim Lawson, PD at Bonneville International AC KOSI Denver (101.1). “Anything Nielsen can do to increase compliance and in-tab is a good thing.”
Four years ago, when Nielsen began slowly and methodically testing wearable PPMs, no one could have predicted a global pandemic would cause considerable supply chain disruptions that would prevent Nielsen from meeting PPM sample targets. Now, with wearables finally being pressed into service, this is one of their initial benefits.
“In the short term, it helps with the supply chain issues that have impacted PPM,” says Connoisseur Communications CEO Jeff Warshaw, who also chairs the Nielsen Audio Advisory Council. “It allows sample sizes to get back to targets quicker. In the long term, it should increase compliance and carry times.”
During a live test with a subset of the PPM panel, those wristbands, clips and pendants increased the amount of time panelists carried the meter, or “wear time,” which in turn translated into increased in-tab rates, Nielsen said during a March 31 client webinar. Nielsen’s analysis showed panelists undocked their meter earlier and docked it later, resulting in an extra hour per day of carry time for wearables. The company said this was fairly consistent across demographic groups.
The hope among clients is that longer carry times will result in an increase in exposure to radio. “We may see some additional [listening] occasions and/or slightly longer TSL, says Lawson, who is also a member of the NAB COLRAM committee.
“If panelists’ wearables are an hour longer than meters, the impact would intuitively make us believe that TSL will be increased,” says Birch. However, he is skeptical this will actually occur, based on his previous experience running Birch Ratings which conducted 100,000 monthly telephone interviews. In tandem with frequent reviews of Arbitron and Nielsen ratings diaries, Birch has drawn some conclusions about how Americans use radio. “Radio listeners typically listen in one to two sessions of 25-30 minutes per day. Accordingly, extending measurement by an extra hour will not likely capture any significant additional listening,” he says, adding that he hopes his assessment is wrong.
Along with a choice of three wearables, the new PPM system also includes a beacon and data hub installed in the home and a companion smartphone app, all of which are used to transmit media consumption behavior back to Nielsen’s servers. However, the app also allows panelists to track their reward points and communicate directly with Nielsen more easily.
Broadcasters see other potential applications for the app. “The ability to communicate with panelists opens up promising opportunities to conduct ROI studies, effectiveness of ad campaigns, and other potentially valuable data,” says Warshaw.
During the client webinar, Bill Rose, Senior VP of Audio Client Solutions at Nielsen, suggested the upgraded PPM technology “can open new possibilities and make PPM more future ready.”While he didn’t elaborate on that scenario, there is no shortage of suggestions on how Nielsen might move it forward. Lawson says he’d like to see Nielsen cut a deal withphone manufactures and cellular providers “to allow streaming through our apps to be captured.”And Warshaw sees potential for improving advertising attribution. “Nielsen and radio companies can work together to show the power and efficacy of radio,” he said.