Saturday, March 19, 2005

Block-by-block radio monitoring

New technology can now tell radio stations and advertisers who's listening to what in cars. Since last June, Herndon, Virginia-based Mobiltrack has logged the listening habits of one million commuters a month by monitoring electric radiation.

Mobiltrack promises data a lot more specific than that currently provided by Arbitron, which just estimates audience size and demographics. As cars pass Mobiltrack's towers at busy intersections, sensors detect electrical radiation emitted by each car stereo. Because radios emit a unique level of radiation to translate each frequency, Mobiltrack is able to distinguish what station is playing. Once a signal is picked up, it's routed to Mobiltrack's servers in Phoenix. Subscribers can then access all the data via the Web.

Mobiltrack has signed up all of Washington DC's major stations for subscriptions averaging $2,500 a month. Advertisers pay $750 a month per location monitored. In California, a company called Smart Sign Media is even using the technology to customize its video-billboard advertising in real time. It measures the demographics of passing cars and displays targeted ads accordingly.

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