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Audience Measurement by Smart Phone?

You’ve heard the controversy.

From today’s Inside Radio:

TMA’s Jim Higginbotham says “one cardinal rule of good research is to minimize the impact of the data collection technique on the respondent.” Higginbotham also says “we believe it is much easier to get upper-income households to participate with the cellphone than it is to get them to agree to carry a pager-like device that has no benefit for them.”

I see a few issues, at least:

1. Smart cellphone penetration isn’t terribly good. Go to the First Class check-in line at the airport and you’ll see them all over. Go to the movies and you won’t see any. Most folks don’t seem interested in smart phones, and if you don’t want to use one they may not be any more beneficial than the clunky meters.

2. It is certainly true that you need to minimize the impact of data collection on the respondent, but forcing a new and unwelcome phone on a respondent may not be any less impactful than mailing them a portable meter. Too bad we can’t just implant chips.

3. An issue not being discussed: PPM is “made to monitor” behavior. A phone, smart or otherwise, is made to make calls. More than a few folks could conceivably have issues with a phone that records aspects of their behavior and sends it to some central authority. Regardless of the veracity of this concern, that doesn’t mean it might not exist. Privacy is a huge issue in this country nowadays. I may be more likely to accept a meter whose sole purpose is to keep tabs than a phone which is intended for placing and accepting calls and has other, more mysterious, purposes too.

4. So are “upper income households” the main concern? Because for all I know these folks are about as likely to participate in a diary methodology as they are in the Lotto. So why sweat what we’ve never had before? Fundamentally, smart phones are more complicated than PPM – and that complication will theoretically impact their acceptance and use. The specialized concern for the radio tastes of the rich among us is a reflection of potential bias.

I certainly haven’t done research on this issue so perhaps I’m clueless. But it seems to me that most folks aren’t smart enough for smart phones (just the other day I had to train a smart phone owner on how to hear his ring), but we’re all dumb enough for PPM.


Here’s some stuff I got in the mail from Media Audit today, and it makes some compelling arguments:

Why Smart Cell Phones are a Better Media Measuring Device The cell phone is an integral part of people’s daily lives, which makes it the ideal mode for passively monitoring activities from media exposure to retail activity. Our proposed passive measurement system incorporates the latest technology into smart phones for measuring radio, television, radio and television streaming via the internet, cable, satellite television, billboards and other out-of-home media. Cell phones are a part of our culture. We take them everywhere we go. A popular online web site notes, “With high levels of mobile telephone penetration, a mobile culture has evolved, where the cell phone becomes a key social tool.” Cell phones have been adopted faster than any other consumer product or service from its inception to its penetration in the market. In less than twenty years, mobile phones have gone from being rare and expensive pieces of equipment used by businesses to a pervasive low-cost personal item. Over the past ten years, the number of Americans carrying a cell phone has increased by 500 percent for an estimated 200 million people. Based on this estimate, 70% of Americans have a cell phone. In addition, a recent NPD survey shows Smart Phone penetration up seven percent during the third quarter of 2005. Using a smart phone that carries specially developed software from Ipsos, this solution offers a number of unique advantages over other proposed media measurement devices: – The cell phone is a familiar device. It is more likely that respondents will carry around a cell phone than other types of proposed meter devices. – Smart Phones can continue to monitor media exposure in places where users would be required to turn their cell phones off. Users can put them on “quiet mode” wherein the phone won’t ring but can be used for other functions that includes the ability to monitor media exposure. The “always on” feature will result in greater accuracy in the data. – Finally, cell phones are gaining use for playing music, audio and video downloading, playing interactive games, and even conducting credit card transactions. – Continuing advances in cell phone technology and increases in usage underscores why The Media Audit/Ipsos Smart Phone will be able to measure radio audiences that a pager type meter will not be able to measure.
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