'PPM Gen 2' Coming in 2010?

Arbitron plans to field-test smaller, sleeker PPM meter early next year
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Arbitron is targeting the first quarter of next year to field-test its "PPM Gen 2," a smaller, sleeker PPM device with other features. It hopes to introduce a software-only version in 2011.

At its recent briefing about June PPM numbers, executives said that based on input from 18-to 34-year-old meter-wearing panelists, the company had been working to improve the design.

The batteries on the current "PPM 10" and "PPM 14" now in the market last 28 to 30 hours and up to 60 hours respectively before needing a charge. Currently a mix of those meters is used in the PPM markets. The longer-lasting battery PPMs were introduced in 2008. Households with younger people are more likely to get the meters with the longer-lasting batteries, Arbitron told me, while households of 55+ members get the PPM 10s. The meters look identical.

One of the things dogging the perception of PPM among those who wear it (and those who don't) is its "pager" look, stemming from its early 1990s design. I've talked with Arbitron executives before about their plans to get creative with the meter design, like using skins, much like other personal digital devices.

During discussion of its financial numbers this week, President/CEO Michael Skarzynski said the company plans a software-only version of PPM in 2011. CFO Sean Creamer said cell phones are not the only option for the new software, which will be "device-agnostic." Arbitron isn't convinced smart phones are the best research tool, he said, citing penetration as one criterion the company would use to decide whether to place PPM software on cell phones. Tech patents come into play also, depending on whether Arbitron has patentable technology or whether it would have to rely on others, he said.

Any change in methodology would have to go through the Media Rating Council accreditation process, lengthening the cycle time, Skarzynski noted.

The discussions by Arbitron officials about the next-gen PPM are noteworthy as the first public discourse of meter R&D under Skarzynski, a techie with an electrical engineering degree.

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