Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ancient Forms Of Data Collection

While the last 6 months has seen a lot of discussion on the accuracy of PPM data collection and the Voltaire processor we continue to totally ignore the other 200+ markets that Nielsen measures and prints accredited research on.

For those of us who pour over the diary data, collected in much the same manner as it has been for over 40 years, the shortfalls of the process are all too obvious.  The samples are too small, the respondents are only in the mix for a week and Nielsen has to go to great lengths to round up a credible sample here.  They send out requests with cash in them, send out more cash after you fill out the initial survey to see if you could be in the sample, then they mail out the diaries, call everyone a bunch of times and hope the diaries are returned.  Can you imagine the costs of the call centers, the postage and those freshly pressed dollar bills they send out.

The result is often very low participation with the under 40 year old demos.  These smaller samples are weighted up so they are still represented, but you can often see a diary take on the value of 160% or even 200+% greater than the average diary in 25-34s, 18-24s and 35-44s.  It happens to both Men and Women.  Whole generations in a diary market are often showing radio listening data that has no respectable confidence or reliability.

All of sample process is done much as it was in the 70s.  From the days when a typewriter was on every desk, phones had dials on them, TVs still had rabbit ears built in, and computers were only in the biggest offices and the military.

Today most of the under 40 audience has completely grown up in a digital age.  Just after they were born the first Apple Computer was introduced and by the time they were 10 the digital world was well underway.  For the under 30 crowd when they were 10 AOL was already rolling and by the time they were 20 smart phones were on the way.  Now we have 90% or more of the U.S. population with cell phones and nearly 70% of the population with smart phones.

We have to wonder who is filling our these diaries?  Who will bother in today's 'we have an app for that' world is writing ANYTHING down.  Who would agree to do this for maybe $10 or $15?  The price of a large pizza!  Are the ones who would go through all of this representative of the 12-40 year olds out there in the diary markets?

Increasingly we are seeing TSL from this audience jump around a lot and much of it is on a down trend in diary markets.  The few diaries they get back from the under 40 population are often not filled out with much listening, they are weighted up and then you see all kinds of wild trends and listening patterns.  Perhaps their little used pens are out of ink?

Surely it would be a lot less expensive to find a new way to measure listening that doesn't involve the ancient pen and paper technology.  Is there anything to report here from the team at Nielsen?  Before this generation completely stops giving out data outside of the top 50 markets?