Full interview: Mark Ramsey on Portable People Meters and measuring what matters

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original image by Eric Rhoads

For decades, the radio industry in Canada has measured listeners using diaries. Here's how it would work: BBM Canada (the industry-owned organization that measures TV and radio ratings in Canada) would mail out paper diaries to randomly selected Canadians and ask them to record their radio tuning for a full week. Listeners would keep track of their listening habits and mail the diary back to the BBM. Then the data would be assembled into a report, which would be used as a reference when setting radio advertising rates.

But at the end of this month, the paper diary system will be replaced in four major Canadian cities: Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver (the system was replaced in Montreal last year). On August 31, 2009, the BBM will start measuring radio and television audiences using something called a Portable People Meter, or PPM. It's a  small device about the size of a pager that tracks radio and television habits by listening for hidden audio codes in broadcasts.

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According to the BBM's Tom Jenks, the PPMs will be rolled out to 4300 homes across Canada at the end of August, measuring both television and radio.

To talk more about this technological way of measuring a very old medium, Nora talked to Mark Ramsey. He's a media consultant who works in audience research and brand development for companies like Clear Channel, CBS Radio, and Sirius/XM. A shorter version of this interview will air on an episode of Spark, but you can hear the full, uncut interview if you download the MP3.

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