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Start of new radio ratings system delayed

Aribitron announced today that it is delaying the rollout of its new Portable People Meter system of measuring radio audiences in San Francisco, San Jose and seven other markets until September 2008 following complaints from broadcasters that the system’s samples were too small to be reliable. (See Arbitron press release and AP report.)

A test run of the meters in New York showed dramatically reduced the ratings for black and Spanish-language stations, which led those broadcasters to call on Nov. 9 for an independent review of the new system’s accuracy. Since then other broadcasters have complained about the People Meters including Clear Channel.

Locally, KGO-AM boss Mickey Luckoff was among the earliest critics of People Meters.

Arbitron will host a conference call at 6 a.m. PT (9 a.m. ET) tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 27) to discuss the change to its rollout schedule at (888) 694-4641 (Access code: 9500497). The call will also be available live at www.arbitron.com, www.ccbn.com and www.streetevents.com.

The meters, a pager-like device that panelists carry (see pictures), are intended to replace the pencil-and-paper diary system Arbitron has been using since 1965. The meter picks up signals from radio broadcasts automatically and is aimed at providing more accurate ratings than the diary method, which relied on listener recall instead of registering what they heard. But in New York, according to MediaPost Publications, some panelists stopped carrying the meters during the survey, which forced Arbitron to recruit new panelists and increase the amount they’re paid.

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