Arbitron is ever-so-slowly ditching its old radio ratings system, which required listeners to keep a pen-and-ink diary, with a new technology, which uses… technology. Arbitron’s “Portable People Meter” (PPM) automatically records whatever broadcast signal users come near, which should provide a much more accurate ratings picture. Someday. For the time being the meters are only being tested in Philadelphia and Houston, but Arbitron exec John Snyder already has interesting news: Wealthier listeners — those with incomes in the $50,000 to $75,000 range — listen to more radio than any other group.
That’s the inverse of conventional wisdom, and a nice surprise: Under the old diary system, Aribtron found that listeners who made less than $25,000 a year or less spent the most time with radio. And that will be a nice nugget for radio stations to trumpet to marketers as their audience declines. But radio stations should be wary of other data that comes out of extensive PPM use — surprises can cut both ways.