Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cell Phone ONLY Households

The National Center for Health Statistics has released the bi-annual survey on cell phone only households for the 2nd half of 2007 and the 18+ percentage of cell phone only households is now up to 15.8%!!!!!

This percentage has grown from Jan-June 2004 at 5% to nearly 16% in just 3 years. And the growth is really increasing. The percentages grew 14% in the last 1/2 of 2007 compared to the first half. Looking further back the percentages from the first 1/2 of 2006 were up 6% over the last half of 2006. At this rate of growth the numbers will quickly hit 20%, it could happen when they release the first half of 2008 around September. So it's likely that right now we are over 20% of the adult population in cell phone only households. By the end of 2008 we will probably be over 25%.

They are also tracking the people who may have a land line but take nearly all their calls on the cell phone. That's another 13.1%. So nearly 29% of the households really don't use the land line as a phone. When Arbitron calls - 29% of the adult population is out of the game. And I repeat it's growing every day.

Now look at the data by age cells:

-------Jan-June 2004 ---- July-Dec 2007

18-24 ---10.3%--------------30.6%

25-29---- 9.9% --------------34.5%

30-44-----4.4%-------------- 15.5%

45-64----- 2.3%-------------- 8.0%

65+ ---------.9%-------------- 2.2%

This is not just 18-24s and college students - look at the rate of growth in 30-44s and now the biggest percentage is 25-29s. If your target audience is 18-44s you are well over 20% of the households using only cell phones. The number is even higher if you factor in the land line households who really don't take calls on the land line.

You can read the study here.

Using landlines for Arbitron samples and research in general is quickly becoming a very biased sample that leaves out big chunks of the population. Obviously we NEED new answers here. Find a way to call cell phones or start using the web, email, myspace?, maybe text messaging, or other new ways to contact the sample. Our data is quickly becoming too in-accurate to be credible even with People Meters we still don't have a reliable and accurate sample with land line phones as the base.


Anonymous said...

Cell phone spam is more annoying than land-line phone spam was. The trick is to get the sample to respond AT ALL. Even if Arbitron starts targeting the cell-only crowd, what incentive is there to respond? What sets Arbitron apart from any other spammer or telemarketer out there? Younger listeners will ignore it altogether and older listeners will be skeptical at best. It *has* to go online, and the incentive has to be greater. Make online the first point of contact, and obtain permission to call them/email them from there.

Ed Cohen said...


You're on the money with respect to the cell phone only (CPO) issue. I'm not as concerned about the "take nearly all calls on their cell phone" percentage...if they have a landline, they can likely be reached.

A few points:

1. PPM has always had CPO in the sample, whether with the address frame in Houston or the "Radio First" telephone methodology elsewhere.

2. You have to take the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) into account. This federal law prevents us from using our predictive dialers to call known cell phone numbers unless the person agrees to be called. That's a huge factor in the discussion.

3. We think we have an answer (under the TCPA) through the use of an address frame with a mail survey that brings in CPO households. We've presented the idea before (last year's Consultant Fly-In for one...Mike McVay was there and presented). This method is in test now...there are diaries in CPO households (offline) today and our goal (not yet a commitment) is CPO sampling in the diary service next year.

I'll stop there before my comment is longer than your blog, but Arbitron's on top of the issue now.

Ed Cohen,
VP-Research Policy and Communication