Barb meets agencies to unveil fresh system

The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board has met with agencies and

media owners to reassure them about the changeover, scheduled for

January, to its new audience research service.



At a presentation for the media industry on Tuesday, Barb's chief

executive, Caroline McDevitt, unveiled details of the move.



The size of the panel will increase from 4,485 homes to 5,100. Barb is

in the process of putting an entirely new panel of 5,400 homes in place,

from which the 5,100 results will be drawn. However, there are concerns

that not all the homes have yet been installed with systems by ATR,

which won the contract from Barb to run the panel.



There will be larger regional panels for London and the Midlands. Other

changes planned include an increase in demographic categories in the

research.



These will increase from 56 categories to 71 and will allow agencies and

broadcasters to analyse factors such as gender, social class and age in

more detail. Analysis of age groups will also be more flexible, with

users of the new Barb system able to target listeners in five-year age

ranges for the first time.



McDevitt admitted there would be teething troubles during the changeover

period, not least because Barb is moving away from paper-based

reporting.



"We are trying to reassure people that it will be business as usual. Our

objective is to ensure integration of data and an improved service,"

McDevitt said.



Nick Mawditt, the UK research director at Initiative Media, said: "The

presentation was very comprehensive and Barb has done well given the

massive job to be done, but there are a few things to alarm the

industry.



"The first thing is the lack of parallel run information. The other area

of concern is that it is looking like mid-February before we get a

complete panel."



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