The Omniscient Arbitron

By Staff

For almost 50 years, the Arbitron survey-research firm has been paying select radio listeners to keep a handwritten log of every station they listen to. Once the logs are completed, Arbitron does its survey-research company fandango, throws the results back to the radio stations, and radio listeners everywhere are stuck listening to the same 50 songs over and over.

Wired (article not available online) reports that Arbitron recently introduced a new, allegedly more precise, way to log peoples’ listening habits. The Portable People Meter will clip onto listeners’ clothing and will automatically record every radio song they listen to, based on hidden tones embedded in the music. The devices will go nationwide in 2010, when 70,000 of them will be sent out to snoop into listeners’ music lives.

These paid listeners can forget about secretly tuning in to “Karma Chameleon” and conveniently forgetting to write it in their log. Arbitron knows all. — Cara Binder

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