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NAB Show: MRC Views Wearables As ‘Positive Step’ For PPM Service.

As eight of the 30 currently accredited Nielsen Audio PPM markets undergo an intensive monitoring process conducted by Media Rating Council and its Radio Committee, a MRC exec told the NAB Show that Nielsen’s new wearable PPM devices could help improve some of the metrics that caused MRC to put the eight markets under the microscope.

“I think wearables is a positive step,” Dr. David Gunzerath, Senior VP and Associate Director of the ratings watchdog told NAB VP of Research Dan McDonald during a session entitled “The Media Rating Council Re-enters the Spotlight.” “Anything that makes the [meter’s] form factors such that it is more likely for somebody to comply with a task they're being asked to do is a good thing.”

When the PPM was first adopted more than a decade ago, the acronym initially referred to Passive People Meter, Gunzerath reminded the audience. Arbitron later renamed it the Portable People Meter because “it’s anything but passive to ask somebody to carry a pager-like device with them all over – it’s not as easy as it sounds. So I think the wearables is a solid initiative and the quicker they can get that out, the better.”

Gunzerath also elaborated a bit on why the MRC formally put the eight markets – Baltimore, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, and Nassau-Suffolk – under enhanced scrutiny and how the monitoring process works. “We're working with Nielsen Audio closely to get information from them on a very timely basis to make sure the [key performance indicators] for these panels don't degrade more than they have,” he explained. “We just thought the time had come for that.”

The pandemic had exacerbated panel performance issues with Nielsen’s audio service, though not to the same degree as with the TV ratings product, which is far more reliant on-going door-to-door to recruit panelists. “And so in that way, it kind of helps Nielsen that the methods that they were already using weren’t quite as impacted by this inability to go out to homes. But that said, over time, those panels also degrade and that is a challenging problem today to doing research that relies on the panel.”

Downward Trends Seen Broadly

The decision to monitor the eight markets came out of the ongoing process MRC members conduct as part of their audit review meetings. “We took a closer look at all the markets and, particularly over the last year or two, we're seeing some downward trends broadly in KPIs,” Gunzerath said. Among the KPIs they focus on are response rate, in-tab level, and proportionality, which tracks how closely the demographic makeup of the panel (including age, gender, race, and ethnicity) matches that of the market being measured.

Gunzerath is a fan of a hybrid approach to measurement and has written about the topic for the past decade. That involves augmenting research based on surveys and panels with so-called big data that comes straight from the media consumption source and is the cornerstone of digital media measurement.

A hybrid approach is something Nielsen is working on to measure audio listening. While it hasn’t provided specifics, it has said that it will integrate big data into the PPM service at a future date through its forthcoming NielsenOne service.

Gunzerath sees that as another positive for audio measurement. “It’s always been a challenge for the radio business in particular because you don't have the back channel that you do even in a limited way in television to collect the type of robust data that can be provided,” he said. “So if you bring in big data sources, in particular from the car, that will be a very positive thing for audience measurement.”

Gunzerath clarified that the eight markets MRC placed on a sort of heightened alert remain accredited.Meanwhile 18 PPM markets, including some of the largest, remain unaccredited. When the MRC audits the PPM service each year, it looks at all 48 markets, Gunzerath noted. “Those other 18 markets are under review on an annual basis. We just haven't chosen to accredit them.”

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