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PPM: The Next Generation

May 9, 2017

At the recent All Access Worldwide Radio Summit, Nielsen displayed the latest devices that will capture participants’ radio listening. Unlike the present PPM device, in my personal opinion, this new device is a game changer. So what is so special about these new PPM devices?

First of all, there is not a single device, but two different options.

Both options share one thing in common; they are real wearables. One looks like an Apple Watch while the other device looks like a Fitbit. Both of these devices have a real advantage over the current PPM device.

Current & Stylish

While we cannot predict what will be stylistically popular in the future, most will agree that the present PPM device is a far cry from stylish. I am not sure how that has impacted consent and in-tab, but one has to believe that a more stylish, less 1980s device will make the panelist more likely to participate. Both of these devices fit that criteria.

Multi-Purpose for the User

While the details are not completely out, these new devices will have an additional purpose to the panelists. One will act as a smart watch, and the other as an activity tracker. Common sense says that users will be more compliant if they see extra value in carrying the device.

Multi-Media Tool for Nielsen

While style and value to the user are nice improvements, the game-changing element of this tool is its ability to measure more than just radio. Presently Nielsen TV household members have to “register” every time they start and end watching television. Since the TV meter is assigned to the television and not an individual, this is the only way the TV meter knows who is watching.

Because these new devices have Bluetooth, it is connected to the TV meter. Therefore it will know which participants are in the room, and when they exit the room. In other words, the registration is 100% passive. Why is this so important? The more passive the measurement, the less chance of user error.

Since a single device will measure radio and TV, a real comparison can be done. Questions that are important to radio’s success can finally be answered:

  • What radio formats/stations do heavy TV viewers listen to?
  • What radio formats/stations do light TV viewers listen to?

Most importantly our industry might be able to create true multi-media reach and frequency comparisons, and demonstrate to advertisers radio’s strength when compared to TV.


While the devil is in the details, and the time frame of the rollout is not firm, we at Research Director, Inc. believe that these new wearable devices are a vast improvement over the existing PPM device. They will hopefully create higher participation, and they will also have single participants measuring both TV and radio.

Just maybe, this will help both industries boost average daily in-tab.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner