Harker Research Asks Arbitron: What Are You Hiding?
June 24, 2009 at 6:19 AM (PT)
On its RADIO INSIGHTS blog, HARKER RESEARCH writes, "You’ve probably made the pilgrimage to COLUMBIA, or before that to BELTSVILLE to review the diaries. You sit in a small room with your call letters on the door as an ARBITRON staff member brings in tray after tray of diaries. It is a ritual as old as ARBITRON.
"Reviewing the diaries is a great learning experience, because we can essentially watch the process of filling out a diary unfold as we turn the pages. We can see the sloppy handwriting ARBITRON editors have to deal with. We can see how loyalty and favoritism impacts the numbers as listeners draw lines down the page rewarding some stations and punishing others.
One wonders why so basic a principle as allowing Arbitron clients to review individual participants has been eliminated in the transition to PPM.
"A diary review also confirms what we’ve always known: The process is not flawless. Virtually every review uncovers mis-credited listening, unidentified listening, and other problems that cost us a few quarter-hours. Rarely are these problems serious, but now and then a diary review forces ARBITRON to reissue a book.
Has PPM Created A New Level Of Secrecy?
The blog continues, "Our PPM clients have asked ARBITRON for respondent level data. We have requested PPM respondent level data directly, but all requests have been denied. The only entities with whom ARBITRON has shared this information are research companies who ultimately provide ARBITON favorable 'research.'
"We’ve asked ARBITRON why they refuse to release respondent level data, and gotten a number of different answers. One argument is that when reviewing a book we are looking at past participants. Now that panelists are ongoing participants, their confidentiality must be maintained.
"ARBITRON can cite MRC rules that require that the anonymity of participants be maintained, but the MRC also states that raw data must be available for inspection. The Mechanical maintained complete respondent anonymity and yet provided the raw data that MRC requires. A PPM Mechanical could do the same thing.
"One wonders why so basic a principle as allowing ARBITRON clients to review individual participants has been eliminated in the transition to PPM. It would be simple to resurrect the Mechanical so that we can see the same things in PPM markets that we used to see in diary markets."
Read the full blog here.