Revealed! The true motivations behind survey data

Alan Mutter looks at the face-palm-inducing results from a recent newspaper publisher survey. Apparently, execs have high hopes for 2010. Very, very high hopes. Ridiculousness aside (and these results are truly ridiculous), I found the end of Mutter’s piece quite…

Alan Mutter looks at the face-palm-inducing results from a recent newspaper publisher survey. Apparently, execs have high hopes for 2010. Very, very high hopes.

Ridiculousness aside (and these results are truly ridiculous), I found the end of Mutter’s piece quite interesting. I think most survey data is crap because it has no way of incorporating the qualitative, subconscious motivations of respondents. People are emotional creatures with wacky ideas. Yet, survey companies and analysts throw projections out there under the billowy banner of Truth.

That’s why I was heartened to see the underlying explanations/motivations laid out by one of the guys behind this newspaper survey. This is the type of honesty surveys need:

  • “Wishful thinking.”
  • “Print people over-estimating the potential of online (which is the sole factor contributing positive gain).”
  • “Corporate insistence to make the online look better.”
  • “If I don’t show better numbers, they’ll cut my budget.
  • “Optimism is better than slitting your wrists.”

Yes! A thousand times yes! This is the meaty, emotionally-honest stuff I want to see. It forces people to take surveys with a grain of salt. Surveys have some value, I’ll give you that, but they’re only a reference point. That’s it. The end-all-be-all, we’re-sure-this-will-happen authoritarian perspective is useless.

Well, damn. DVRs aren’t so bad for advertising after all

Remember how DVRs were going to kill TV advertising real bad? Yeah … about that: Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer….

Remember how DVRs were going to kill TV advertising real bad? Yeah … about that:

Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer. According to Nielsen, 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old for all four networks taken together are watching the commercials during playback, up slightly from last year. Why would people pass on the opportunity to skip through to the next chunk of program content?

I love the explanation for this seemingly impossible turn of events:

The most basic reason, according to Brad Adgate, the senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, a media buying firm, is that the behavior that has underpinned television since its invention still persists to a larger degree than expected.
“It’s still a passive activity,” he said. [Emphasis added.]

Sure is! Never underestimate the power of passivity.

The New York Times deserves kudos for writing this story because, far too often, the Chicken Little projections of execs and analysts are left unchecked. Consumer behavior and disruptive technologies are moving targets, so remember that the next time the latest iPhone killer or Kindle killer or ad killer or media killer is touted. Reality is contextual and complicated.