Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lies, damn lies, and media consumption statistics

Well, it's no wonder advertisers are confused. On March 1, they read a Reuters story called "More Americans turning to Web for news":

Nearly 70 percent of Americans believe traditional journalism is out of touch, and nearly half are turning to the Internet to get their news, according to a new survey.

While most people think journalism is important to the quality of life, 64 percent are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities, a We Media/Zogby Interactive online poll showed.

Then, two days later, they read "Local TV Easily People’s Main Source for News," in Broadcasting & Cable:
Local TV is the most effective video-advertising platform, Hearst-Argyle Television reported, as well as the biggest audience draw for news and information.

Hearst-Argyle, which owns 26 stations, released a part of a survey at the Association of National Advertisers conference in New York Thursday. The broadcaster partnered with Frank N. Magid Associates on the study, which polled 2,700 local news viewers 25-54.

According to the survey, which Hearst-Argyle president and CEO David Barrett discussed at the conference, 55% of respondents cited TV as their primary source of news information, ahead of the Web (26%) and print newspapers (14%).

So, who do you trust? I'm going to have to give the nod to the We Media/Zogby study. Why? Well, there's this little swath of fine print from the Hears-Argyle survey:
Portals such as Google were not included among the “Web” category.
It makes you wonder what category "portals such as Google" were included in. "Lunchmeat"? "State Capitols"? "Potpouuri"?

I'm not saying that the We Media/Zogby results are unimpeachable, but this is a good reminder that you have to read beyond the headlines. Always ask about the source of the research, the methodology, and the sample size. In addition, consider who's delivering the message. What's their motivation for sharing the data?

As media buying becomes more complex, and as audiences become more fragmented, it's only going to become more likely that you'll hear mixed messages. That's why it's important to be skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true, and of anyone who says their solution is a panacea.

Get used to asking a lot of questions. And get used to saying this word more often.

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