Hammers and Nails

hammer_and_nails.jpgHere at Edison, we use a lot of tools to generate the best consumer insights possible for our clients. When we started back in 1994, most of our work was telephone-based survey research and focus groups. Since then, we have incorporated Internet surveys, online qualitative research, consumer exit polling, social media monitoring and dozens of other methods into our repertoire. The Internet, in particular, has changed our business irrevocably, and made available a wide variety of options to reach consumers where they work and play online.

Yet, we still do a lot of telephone work here at Edison, and though our Exit Polling back-end systems would rival NASA’s for complexity, the heart of that particular effort is still thousands of local interviewers with clipboards. The key for us is to be able to deploy “boots on the ground,” even if the “ground” is online, to capture opinions whenever and wherever they occur.

I note this because there have been a lot of recent innovations in mining unstructured online data for market research purposes. As social media monitoring tools like Radian 6, Trackur and Social Mention continue to expand their coverage and capabilities, using those tools to discern what consumers are saying and doing online is becoming a more viable source for consumer insights, and one that no competent CMO or brand manager should ignore. We recommend social media research and use these tools on behalf of our clients whenever appropriate.

Social media research is attractive on many levels, not the least of which is that on some of those levels it’s free. Anyone can set up Google Alerts or use other freely-available tools to begin mining the social web, and even the paid tools available aren’t onerously expensive for the vast majority of companies. Because unstructured data online is “free,” and free is good, it’s easy to make the leap to thinking that social media research is a replacement for other methods and tools. Like any tool, however, social media research is great at some things, and lousy at others – just as telephone surveys are. The key is to focus on the best way to achieve your research goal – period – and not the best way you can use a given tool.

Historically, new technologies sometimes obviate the need for old ones, but just as often they cause the old ones to elevate their game and get better. Focus groups, for instance, will never be the same – they aren’t going away, but they have certainly changed for the better, and are now just as likely to take place in the field or online as they are behind a two-way mirror. The Internet has made our jobs as researchers different (not easier) and gives us the tools to provide richer insights for our clients, which makes us all better. We have to be careful, however, not to fall in love with any one of these tools.

I write this because lately we have gotten requests from some companies not to provide them with consumer insights, or decision support, but to give them an “online survey,” or some other specific tool. I actually got back from one prospective client that they didn’t choose our proposal because we didn’t employ a punch card system (!) they were accustomed to using. If an online survey is the best way to attack a given research problem, we recommend it. If it isn’t, we don’t. It’s a balance, of course, between the needs of the client, the client’s budget and the standards for quality research, but this balance is always best achieved when we start with the end goal in mind, and not with a specific tool.

Still, many companies are definitely doing it right. For instance, we are thrilled to have a partnership with SeeSaw Networks, a leading place-based media company, who just yesterday announced a solution to reach Moms wherever they go with messaging that is synchronized to their activities and the venues they are frequenting. Measuring place-based media and other out-of-home advertising is a tricky business, and in this particular case the best solution is a surprisingly “low-tech” one – we employ the same network of over 10,000 trained interviewers we use for the National Election Exit Polls to conduct methodologically sound, rigorously sampled place-based research. Again, it’s about capturing consumers where they are, and in this particular partnership, that’s at shops, grocery stores and fitness centers and anywhere else they shop, work and play.

One of my favorite cliches in the world is this: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Relying too heavily on mining unstructured data, self-selected Internet polls or even telephone surveys can very easily lead you down this path. Not everything is a nail.

Save The Date: The 2010 American Youth Study

In the summer of 2000, Edison Research released a landmark study of teens and young adults entitled “Radio’s Future: Today’s 12-24 Year-Olds“. This significant national study took an in-depth look at not just the media consumption habits of American youth, but also their attitudes, motivations, beliefs and desires. At the time, Radio was seeing erosion of 12-24 listening, and the Edison study served as a benchmark for more than a decade, providing all the clues radio needed to revitalize its younger audience.

mall_teen.jpgIn 2010, precisely a decade later, Radio’s younger demos are more at risk than ever. In the intervening years since 2000, the pace of change has accelerated, and today iPods, Pandora and Smartphones, none of which existed in 2000, are woven into the very fiber of our beings. In 2000, 87% of 12-24’s bought music on cassettes and CD’s; today, will any teen or young adult spend money on music again? What is radio’s role to be – and how can radio reassert its importance for music discovery and as arbiters of youth culture? What do today’s young consumers think of radio and where it fits into all their options for entertainment and information?

Edison is thrilled to announce the debut of Radio’s Future II: The 2010 American Youth Study at the NAB/RAB annual conference for broadcasters, The Radio Show, on Wednesday, September 29th. The study is being performed in partnership with Radio-Info.com. This significant research study will expand to cover 12-34 year-old Americans, and will go well beyond merely measuring consumption habits. With the perspective of a decade’s time passing, we will be able to track changes among young adults and also be able to examine the same cohort we studied in 2000 – today’s 22-34 year-olds – and how they have migrated in their perceptions and beliefs since 2000.

The survey will be a methodologically sound, projectable national research study of 1500 respondents, from the same team who has been selected as the sole provider of US Election Exit Polling data for all the major US news networks. Edison’s research team will provide attendees not just with sound-bites and anecdotes, but with definitive decision support and insight regarding not only how America’s youth use media, but how they feel about various media channels and technologies, from mobile phone apps and media consumption, to social media, Internet radio, file downloading, music discovery and the place of radio in their culture.

ADM research notes podcast advertising appeals to “unreachable” consumers

Washington, DC – January 28, 2010 – The Association for Downloadable Media, in conjunction with Edison Research, announced today the findings of its recently concluded Podcast Consumer Attitudes study. Respondents to this online study of active podcast consumers indicated that although they are increasingly turning away from some mass media platforms and advertising approaches, they are receptive to advertising and sponsorship messages in downloadable media. These consumers also show a significant tendency to consume podcasts on their mobile phones, highlighting the importance of the channel as a truly portable medium.

According to Edison Research Vice President Tom Webster, “A podcast advertising buy is not a redundant media buy for advertisers and marketers. These are attractive, affluent consumers that mass media is losing.” He also notes, “Ninety percent of these respondents indicated that they had taken some kind of action as a result of podcast advertising or sponsorship, and over 40% reported purchasing behaviors, which indicates that they are receptive to the right message, in the right context.”

PR Graph 1.png

ADM Chairman, Chris MacDonald stated, “This study reinforces what the ADM has always believed, that podcasts and downloadable media provide valuable and effective options to reaching the otherwise unreachable, in ways that work for the consumer.” He goes on to say, “It’s obvious that an online or offline audio or video buy that does not include a podcasting component will miss a very attractive advertising target.”

Other findings of this study included the following:

Nearly 80% of these podcast consumers agreed that “when price and quality is equal,” they “prefer to buy products from companies that advertise on or sponsor” the podcasts they regularly enjoy.

37% of these respondents expressed some positive sentiment about advertising in the podcasts they regularly listen to or watch, compared to only 6% positive sentiment expressed for the advertising approaches of television or commercial radio.

In fact, 78% of these respondents agreed (and 21% agreed strongly) that their opinion of a company is more positive when they hear it mentioned in one of the podcasts they regularly enjoy.

In addition, 72% of these respondents were at least somewhat receptive to sponsorship messages in the podcasts they regularly enjoy, with 5% indicating that they are generally “interested in them and/or often find them useful.” When sponsorship or advertising messages are read by the host(s) of the podcasts themselves, again 72% are receptive, but 20% indicate that those messages are generally interesting and useful.

Presentation materials and a full report are available at www.downloadablemedia.org and www.edisonresearch.com.

Survey Methodology

Respondents in this online survey were recruited using audio/video messages embedded in podcasts from some of the leading aggregators of downloadable media, including NPR, Wizzard, RawVoice and Revison3, during the 4th quarter of 2009. Interviews were conducted from 10/20 to 11/16, with a final tally of 4,787 completed surveys. Raw results from the survey were weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the U.S. audience for audio and video podcasts, as reported from nationally representative data sourced from the 17th Edison Research/Arbitron Internet and Multimedia Study (2009) and The Podcast Consumer Revealed (2009).

About the Association for Downloadable Media

The Association for Downloadable Media is focused on providing standards for advertising and audience measurement for episodic and downloadable media. The organization’s constituents include individual podcasters, media companies, publishers, syndication companies and distributors offering downloadable media, advertising agencies, marketers, technology suppliers, hardware and software manufacturers of portable media products and services, market research firms and audience and advertising effectiveness measurement companies. Through our volunteer membership, we provide leadership in and organization of advertising and audience measurement standards, research, education and advocacy to all those involved in portable media (Podcasts/ATOM/RSS media enclosures) across the Internet, iPods, MP3 players, mobile devices, P2P and other upcoming platforms.

About Edison Research

Edison Research is a global leader in market and consumer research for businesses and media organizations worldwide, and has been the sole provider of exit poll information to the six major news organizations –ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the Associated Press–since 2003. As part of this effort, Edison has conducted exit polls and collected precinct vote returns to project and analyze results for every major primary and the general elections in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Edison provides companies with custom research solutions to measure audience, effectiveness and other key metrics of marketing and advertising campaigns. They are, along with Arbitron, the co-authors of the widely-quoted Internet and Multimedia Research Series, now in its 18th iteration.

The 2009 Edison/AMC Best Picture Showcase Survey – Methodology

best_picture_questionnaireEdison Research teamed with AMC Entertainment® to conduct an exit poll of guests of the AMC Best Picture Showcasesm on Saturday, February 21, 2009.

A total of 915 movie-goers at a sample of five theaters completed the self-administered survey.

The sample of five theaters was selected to represent the regional distribution of guests at the 97 AMC movie theaters across the United States that participated in the AMC Best Picture Showcasesm. The surveys were conducted at AMC movie theaters located in Chicago, Columbus, OH, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York City.

All guests at these five theaters were asked to participate in the survey. In order to qualify for the survey, respondents had to have seen all five motion pictures nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for “Best Picture.” Approximately 73% of the guests completed the survey.

The sample of respondents for this survey represents the population of guests of the AMC Best Picture Showcasesm who have seen all five nominated films. All samples are approximations. A measure of the approximation is called sampling error. For this exit poll the sampling error for the entire sample is approximately +/-3%.

Other Information

Results were tabulated throughout the evening of February 21st at Edison’s exit polling headquarters and made available at approximately 6 am on Sunday, February 22nd, at www.edisonresearch.com/americans-choose-slumdog-millionaire-best-picture/

For more information on movie research or other types of consumer exit polling, contact us.

Has Radio Lost the College Grads?

Throughout the long Democratic Primary season, one of the most consistent differences between voters for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has been by education. As the Exit Polls that our company, Edison Media Research, performs for the television networks and the Associated Press have shown, Obama has won convincingly among those who have graduated from college, while Clinton has taken the vote of those who have less than a college education.
Looking at these numbers has led me to learn more about the differences between these two large groups.

Read more