Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Audience Research - The Future - Summary

With so much new media plus changes in entertainment and communications, as well as a revolution in our measurement systems we have many more questions than answers.  Asking the same old questions to a sample gathered in the ancient days of land line phones in a format that takes lots of precious time to execute will make it real hard to find the answers to so many questions.  

We have the tools and opportunity to blaze new trails in researching the audience.  But, like so much in radio we have to get our heads out of the 80s and welcome the new world.   Hopefully as we roll out of the recession some of the gains will find their way into learning about the audience in their new world.

The keys lie in moving more towards managed panels for our research base, moving more towards on-line resources with their rich databases.  The next step is to overhaul our questions to learn more about behavior instead of just reciting recalled images.  To learn more about the audience on these levels we need to look at new data gathering systems to get past the surface levels and also use new analysis techniques to get to the core of real audience actions.  We'll also need to move away from talking to them on the phone and interact with them in their world which as moved to the digital world of the web, cell phones, and smart phones/tablets.

It's not like we are really blazing a new trail here by ourselves.  A lot of other marketing research and industries have already started down this path.  Let's learn from them and start looking at the audience's behavior and how we can be a stronger part of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Audience Research - The Future - Data Collection

It's obvious that we are in the middle of a revolution in communication.  With cell phones and the Internet we suddenly have a whole new platform that is evolving in a full digital world following Moore's law.   The law is built on the capacity of integrated circuits which doubles every 2 years - and with it we double the capability the the circuits and their applications.  We no longer talk on our cell phones, we text, surf the Internet, blog, tweet, Facebook, take pictures, shoot movies, and now have millions of apps that do almost anything.

In the Radio Research world a lot of what we do still relies on talking on the phone or filling out pen and paper forms - like the diary.   Our measurement is moving away from this model with the PPM, but is our perceptual and music research following along?

When you think about the telephone perceptual it's a lengthy world.   We have to read off long lists of stations, music mix descriptors, personality names, image descriptions and if we want open ended comments someone has to transcribe them.  It limits the amount of information we can get from them and the time they will stay on the phone.  We also have that interaction with the interviewer which sometimes holds people back from their real actions and thoughts.

Moving perceptual research online opens up a lot of doors.  We often get a lot more open ended responses with very valuable impressions and images, we can cover long list of images, stations and other questions much quicker.  There are also lots of animation options that will allow us to use dial type scales and other ways to collect data that gives us more insight than just the 1-7 scale. Imagine what we could do with the I-Pad touch screen!

Online research also moves at the pace of the responder - not the pace of the music test or the interviewer, the sample can come back to the questionnaire/music list at their schedule.  And of course we can add audio, video and pictures/images into the mix with ease.

Having tried out a few on-line perceptual studies we've seen the potential.  While we have all done a quick survey on-line there is a lot more that can be done in this environment.  Some innovative researchers working with other product lines have started to push the envelope in questionnaire design and the potential is very impressive.

It's a whole new world of potential and possibilities that we haven't even tapped into .  Perhaps as we start to dig into audience research again in our budgets we'll have the courage to innovate instead of just replicate.

In our last post in this series we'll summarize the thoughts early next week.   Please feel free to add yours.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Audience Research - The Future - The Questions

The usual pattern in most research studies really ends up with the same questions.   We start with their 'cume' behavior/recall and then narrow it to most listened to stations then we move on to the body of the questions .  We craft music blends for them to evaluate, ask about Morning shows, other personalities, maybe at work listening, contests, marketing efforts and maybe a few questions about the web site (have you been there).   Sometimes we are on a format search where the music mixes or other descriptive moments take more time in the questions.  There's always the pressure of keeping it under 25 minutes on the phone so we really don't have that much time.

Notice that the only area that is about their behavior is in the Cume and which stations they listen to the most.  An even there we may see the most marketed station win even though we look down their answers and they don't really know much about that station in the other parts of the study.  Where do they listen to radio the most, and what are those stations?  How passionate are they? Are they super radio users or just casual tuners?  Do they jump around as soon as the music sets end?

Also what kind of people are they?  Are they innovators that latch on to new concepts or products or are they laggards who are just figuring out innovations that happened years ago?  Or are they in that mass in the middle and where do they rank in that segment?

A few more questions about them before we dive into their perceived listening habits would really help us learn a lot more about what their actual behavior might be.  Right now we are mostly learning what they recall about our products and not a lot about how they use them.  Recall worked in the diary days - now it's about real behavior.  We have to find the secrets to making our products perform on a different plane

Many products and industries have used this type of research for years - dating back to the 60s and while it's gone through a number of evolutions it's still in use today.  Finding the key links in the sample or population and building products that use the keys to open doors to the bigger groups has been a big element for many industries.  

Now how do we communicate with the sample?  A lot has changed in the last few decades let's take a look in our next segment later in the week.  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Audience Research - The Future - The Sample

The land line phone and a random sample from the general population taken from the phone number listings has been the base for research since the late 50s.   Since radio really didn't get into ratings till the 60s and audience research in the 70s we started in the telephone era and for the most part haven't evolved much.

Now the world has obviously changed and the tides of radio research are also on the verge of changing.

First we have the land line telephone - which is quickly dying.   We are now at over 25% of the population who don't even have a land line and in some demos it's nearly 40%.  The number of Cell Phone converts grows every day and we can't call them on their cells.   Arbitron has begun the shift to try and integrate more and more cell phone households into the sample frame, but has our perceptual and music testing research?  It's not become a widespread practice, because it's hard to try and set up systems to reach cell phone only households for a survey done 1 or 2 times year.

2nd the audience has clearly changed the way they communicate.  Written snail mail and actually talking on a phone (cell or land line) are both evolving to new worlds.   With the internet we communicate in a whole new world from email to text messaging to social networks and many more evolutions to come at the speed of the internet where every 18 months we see innovations all over the place.  But, how do we communicate or research our audience?  While we have dabbled in on-line music testing, some station database questions, and maybe a few have actually done an on line perceptual test most of the time we still talking on the  phone and punching the responses into a CATI software program.

The new answers may well lie in managed panels.  Really a phone listing is a form of a managed panel of households that have phones.  In this case the panels could be built from a wide collection of on-line sources and serve as a sample base to draw from.   There are managed panels all over the place already that we could tap into and use that base to reach out on many platforms on line to gather the data.  We have started to use them for some online music testing and a few questions from our station databases, but our valid concern is just talking to our fans and not the whole market.

We also have to take a look at the new world of PPM.   This is really a managed panel of the market that is carrying around the meters for months and even years.  It's different from the old random draw of the sample that took place every week.   Here the sample is pulled with only a few replacements every week or month.  Instead of getting a snapshot of a few people's listening habits for a week we get a full length movie of them over 6 months, a year and maybe even 18 months.

Radio research used to rely on the random sample and in today's world trying to poll everyone doesn't yield enough specific information for us to work with.  More and more we need to stratify the sample and narrow the vision to those we have a chance to reach with our products when we do audience research for perceptual and music surveys.

There are panels out there, the key is grooming them so we can use them to research our product.  Many others have already started.  NASCAR, PPG, the auto companies, and many of the major retailers already work hard to grow panels that they can rely on to help them keep momentum with the audience on their products.   We need to start to find ways to make this work on much bigger scale than just our newsletter email list.

We also need to start asking new questions to learn more about behavior and not just about what they remember of our products.   We'll cover some thoughts there in a few days.   Feel free to chime in and contribute your thoughts on these topics.  Everyone's help will be needed.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Audience Research - The Future

Over the last 4-5 years doing audience research for music testing and perceptual studies has been an expense that has in many cases been deemed too expensive.   With the economy struggling, lots of competition from new media, and the need for every manager to cut expenses research seemed to fall off the table.   Clear Channel pretty much dismantled it's in house Critical Mass Media and left BA research on the table.  Other groups curtailed a lot of their work in studying the audience and many smaller owners also cut back.  

The reality here is that in many cases we've gone a long time guiding our ships in ever changing seas of new competition, audience evolution, and life style changes that no doubt have affected how the audience uses the product and their passion levels for it.  Now the economy is improving and perhaps we are getting ready to return to doing some audience research.

A lot has changed with a completely new measurement system in many markets.  The old sample system of using  mostly land line phones to gather the panel is suspect as so many people have turned off their land lines for cell phones.  Even Arbitron is using different systems to gather the sample to include non or limited land line participants in all markets.  We also have new opportunities using the internet for research that we have only done a few experiments with.

Much of our perceptual research in the past was built completely on recall behavior.  After all our whole game in the diary days was built on recall.  It really didn't matter if they really listened to our morning show every day, if they had high recall and impressions of the show we often got credit for listening.  If they could remember it to write it down - game over.  Making the impression still matters a lot, but we also need them to listen.

It's time to scrap the old questionnaires, the old auditorium tests, and the call out studies and come up with some new systems to find answers to new questions.  But, is anyone up for the experimentation it's going to take?  Over the next 10 days let's take a look at some opportunities to remodel our research here - I'll be bringing in some ideas and thoughts, but if you have any please feel free to contribute with your comments.  

First up - The Sample in just a few days.