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Web/Mobile Data Collection to ‘Leapfrog’ Beyond the Diary

Arbitron enters new phase of testing later this month

Arbiton is set to begin the next pilot phase for its “Project Leapfrog” at the end of this month.

In an effort to go beyond paper diaries, Arbitron is developing a Web/mobile survey for mid-size and smaller markets, areas where it wouldn’t be as cost-effective for stations to use the Portable People Meter for audience measurement. While the company has been making changes to its diary methodology, like adding cellphone-only sampling, for example, it says customers want more.

“Small changes were only going to take us so far. We wanted to try a completely new approach to measuring data in small and medium-size markets,” said Brad Feldhaus, Arbitron vice president of diary & national product management, in a client webinar. Hence the name “Leapfrog.”

Leapfrog features a week-long web/mobile survey as the main means of data collection. Feldhaus said the primary benefit “is meeting respondents where they are.”

In designing it, Arbitron says it wanted something that would deliver higher sample sizes, a sample representation that better reflects the market composition and a data collection process that is more relevant to tech-savvy consumers.

The web/mobile methodology would not be less expensive than the current diary-based methodology, Feldhaus said because developing and maintaining a new website is involved.

The audience research firm tested elements of Project Leapfrog in 2010. An expanded field test begins this month to explore its feasibility further.

Some changes from the diary process and what’s planned so far for Leapfrog: Respondents can start the survey when they want, instead of needing to wait to record their radio listening until a Thursday, the traditional start of a new diary week. Premiums like gift cards will only be given for completed surveys. There’s a still a comments section, just like in the diary, so you can see what respondents are saying about your station.

In 2010, Arbitron tested whether people would open the mailed materials and register to take part in the survey on the website. The registration results were better than expected, with a higher percentage of 18 to 24s registering and a lower percentage of 55+, said Feldhaus.

Using a consultant with direct marketing experience, the audience development company designed an up-to-date Web interface and the materials respondents will receive to get them to register themselves and household members and take part in the survey.

As Arbitron continues to test the web/mobile interface, it said radio stations can expect changes in how Leapfrog looks now and what it will look like when it eventually rolls (or leaps) out.

There’s no hard date for that yet. Feldhaus said past experience with PPM testing tells the company it needs to go through a lot of testing “before it’s soup.”

— Leslie Stimson