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Some Media Reading

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There have been a few reports, publications and press releases recently that are worth highlighting.

The BBC has published its latest monthly iPlayer Performance Pack detailing results for July 2010. I always find this is worth a read.

It's interesting to note that requests for BBC iPlayer dipped a bit during both June and July. While the weather is almost certainly a contributing factor (and we're obviously not all into watching programmes on our laptops in the garden), this was during the period of the World Cup which ate up much of the primetime schedule. Even when ITV was showing games, the BBC tended to counter with repeats and non-essential programming.

The slide on page 11 of the report makes for interesting reading too. It details average weekly use of the iPlayer. It breaks out radio, TV, and users of both. So in the week of 26 July, 4.3m users (or more particularly, "user agents") used the TV functionality, while 1.3m used radio. 0.4m used both. That means an awful lot of people are using TV but not using radio - 9% in fact. Whereas around 31% of radio users also use TV. Seeing how that 9% changes over a longer period will be something to watch out for.

That said, people who listen to radio listen for much longer than television. In July radio users averaged 184 minutes, whereas TV users average just 69 minutes.

Top Gear continues to be the most popular show with episode 3 of the most recent series getting 1.273m requests. This was the episode that clashed with the World Cup Final...

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is the most popular radio programme with three episodes filling up the top three places each getting about 100,000 plays. I'm always surprised how many people listen to Chris Moyles on the iPlayer, since it's surely a show you need to listen to live? Yet it fills half the top 20 places.

The other notable radio performer was the World Cup quarterfinal between the Netherlands and Brazil. Because it took place in the afternoon, 69,000 people heard it streaming online.

There's plenty more to look at in the report.

Deloitte has commissioned another report into TV to accompany the Mediaguardian Edinburgh Television Festival. Perspectives on Television in Words and Numbers is well worth a read as there's lots to digest.

The headlines from this research centered around the fact that 86% of viewers watching pre-recorded programmes on PVRs always skip through the ads. Interestingly, this made the press release, but not the final report.

Instead the report digs deeper into how people used and trusted different media during the election, with television easily winning out. As other reports have also made clear, we've not yet really had our "internet" election.

The report goes into greater detail about television on demand, with a growing number of respondents claiming that this is important - significantly so amongst 18-24 year olds, the majority of whom consider this important. (As an aside, why does Sky still consider giving me access to the Sky Player an extra I should consider myself lucky to have? For the last couple of summers they've provided access to Sky Sports, for which I pay a subscription. And now I should consider myself fortunate to have it until the end year.)

The report shows that relatively few people are using their laptops, netbooks or smartphones to comment contemporaneously with live broadcasts of TV shows. Yet, this is surely only going to rise. Using Twitter or Facebook to comment on live shows like the X-Factor only makes them more unmissable to those who like those shows (In the case of X Factor, that absolutely does not include me. Indeed, I'm thankful that Tweetdeck has a filter option that lets users remove Tweets with certain keywords).

While the TV advertising is demonstrated has having the most impact, it's got to be worrying that as PVR ownership increases, fewer of those ads are going to be seen. Which brings us onto...

Product placement! While this is something of a step into the unknown for UK broadcasters, we're familiar with the very obvious branding in films (what action film doesn't partner with a mobile handset provider these days?) and imported TV like 24's Cisco kit and American Idol's blurred Coke glasses. The report quotes some American research that suggests recall can increase by 20% through product placement.

The BPI announced that music revenues were up 2.3% in 2009. That's right up! The BPI puts this increase down to innovation in the digital world and finding new revenue streams.

If you look at the full release, you'll see that although the overall revenue from Trade Income has increased by 1.4%, it's secondary revenues that have increased the most at 6.6%. Of that secondary revenues, "more than a third" of it comes from broadcasting and performance revenues (PPL announced pretty decent results earlier in the year).

While the development of new revenue streams is to be admired, it's interesting that even in these tougher times, revenues continue to rise in the music industry.

Finally, there's the big one. Ofcom's annual Communication Market Report. Weighing in at well over 350 pages, it's a canter through all areas of the media. I'll just pull a few points from the radio section and highlight them here.

Ofcom noted that while commercial radio's revenues have fallen 22% over the last five years, BBC Radio expenditure has risen by 26%. And despite the overall number of listeners increasing over the last five years reaching an all time high, the amount of time spent listening has diminished with commercial radio being especially badly hit over the last five years.

Those numbers would suggest that during a period when radio revenues decreased, perhaps less was invested in programming with a resultant fall in listening. I think it's arguable that radio is investing more in programming now - albeit not necessarily at a local level.

It's worth noting that in reporting podcast listening based on MIDAS results, Ofcom hasn't taken into account methodological changes in the most recent MIDAS survey. This results in a dip in podcast listening if you look at the numbers Ofcom shows in their chart (Fig 3.4 on p193). You only have to look at the reported podcast listening numbers from stations like Absolute Radio and the BBC to see that this isn't the case.

Fig 3.5 in the Ofcom report shows that 16-24s remain an audience for radio to be concerned about, with only 32% of listening time spent on live radio in this age group compared with 69% for all adults (Source: Ofcom research, June 2010).

Fig 3.36 (P223) is worth noting. It highlights just how well commercial radio does in Scotland, whereas BBC Local/National radio in Northern Ireland is especially strong.

While 66% of people have now heard of DAB, only 17% of people said that they intended to buy one in the next 12 months. It's going to take a few more cheaper radios (like the announcement of a new sub-£40 Pure radio yesterday) to actually get them to commit though.

Satisfaction is amazingly high - both with the choice of stations, and what's carried on them. 93% of people are satisfied with thier station selection and 94% are satisfied with what's carried on them.

There's a lot in here, even if much of it has previously been reported. It's definitely worth a browse.

Social Networking Statistics Reporting

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Photowalk (9 of 12)

A couple of weeks ago Ofcom published its annual Communications Market Report which nicely distils lots of UK media research into one place (albeit a 334 page "place").

The report noted that social networking is "growing more slowly than previously." This isn't perhaps all that surprising since at some point services like Facebook run out of new sign-ups.

But the piece of research that really caused some ructions was that summarised as follows:

Social networking is also maturing - literally. Use grew fastest among 35-54s - up by eight percentage points since Q1 2008 to 35%. Among 25-34 year olds use grew by six percentage points to 46% but it actually fell slightly among 15-24s - by five percentage points to 50%.

This couldn't be true could it?

Fewer 15-24s are using social networking than previously?

Then there was that widely quoted "research note" written by a 15-year old Morgan Stanley intern (Seemingly, nobody at Morgan Stanley had previously bothered speaking to their teenage sons and daughter to find out how they were using social media). That report said that 15 year olds didn't use Twitter. That might be true for that particular teenager, and it's certainly true that Twitter appeals to older people, but taking one person's experience at face value is always dangerous.

Well let's have a look at some of that Ofcom report in a little more detail.

socialnetworkingofcom

First of all, while the Ofcom report does indeed show a drop between Q1 2008 and Q1 2009, the 15-24 age group has the highest penetration of any age group.

Over the same period, the 25-34 age group has leapt from 40% to 46%, while amongst 35-44s the jump is even more marked going from 28% to 35%.

But the question remains: are the underlying figures accurate?

The source of the data is Ofcom's Technology Tracker. Unfortunately, full results from this research don't seem to be available, and although the source gives the sample size at around 6000 per sweep for Q1 2008 and Q1 2009 (it's significantly lower at a mid-point sample taken in Q3 2008), we don't know how many are 15-24s.

Supposing that the sample is split relatively evenly in line with population, there should be no doubt that the figures are accurate and the margin of error should be minimal.

The jumps around and changes in levels suggest something a little broader - perhaps people's defninitions of a "social networking site" are changing, as well as their behaviour.

Interestingly, Comscore came out and pretty much refuted Ofcom's findings in a press release that highlighted continued growth in the sector between June 2009 and June 2009 amongst 15-24 year olds. Facebook again shows excellent growth.

Now ComScore certainly employs a very different methodology to derive its figures to those of Ofcom. Some have poo-pooed Ofcom's numbers because they're based on information from as long ago as Q1 2009. That's an eon in social networking terms! But I'm not inclined to agree. Yes more up to date data is always preferable, but this is only a few months old, and it's not enough to have made a difference, except perhaps, to Twitter.

On a broader level, it seems clear that different age groups use social media very differently. Conventional wisdom doesn't regard instant messaging as a "social media site" and very few 15-24s would probably regard it as so. Yet it's vastly popular in this age group (TGI suggests that 45% of all instant messager users are in this demo, and I suspect that account for the vast majority of the messaging), and it's certainly "social."

The younger you are, the more your "social network" revolves around people you see very regularly: at school, college or socially. But even then, you still use these sites a lot.

Then you get older and lose touch with some people - you might find them again via Facebook, or stay in touch professionally via LinkedIn.

Much of the debate seems to be focused around how Twitter is slightly older (not that old if you're a 62 year-old, former reality TV contestant and newspaper columnist). That's because it's something more than just that status update bit of Facebook. Yes - you stay in touch with friends via it, but you probably also have a wider selection of people you follow who are feeding you stuff that interests you.

It can take some time to learn this, which is probably why so many Tweets are babble. Of course one person's "babble" is another person's interesting bit of information.

And once you understand how Twitter works best, you don't just subscribe to anybody's Twitter stream. I'm only likely to subscribe to people I'm interested in, and those who have interesting things to say (in my eyes at least). So the signal to noise ratio is much better for me.

Indeed one clear element in the "babble" research by Pear Analytics is missing: we don't know how many people followed the tweets that were sent. The research considered 2000 tweets pulled from the public timeline. How many followers those tweets had was not considered.

Somebody who just tells the world at large what they had for breakfast probably isn't going to get a large number of followers outside their close circle of friends and family. Indeed, if you only participate to that level, you're likely to find Twitter unappetising and become part of that other oft-quoted stat - the number of people who leave nearly as quickly as they join Twitter (or plenty of other social networking sites).

The tweets of more interesting opinion formers are seen by vastly more people. And they probably value those messages a great deal more. Put simply, one tweet by Joe Bloggs is not equal to one tweet by Stephen Fry. Not all tweets are alike*.

You can see the whole paper here, although as I say, I believe it's flawed in its conception.

I'm not sure what my conclusion overall here is, except that you should always be a little distrustful of statistics unless you're able to look at the full picture.


* In fact, Pear Analytics did understand this, and referred to a Gizmodo blog post and accompanying visualisation that noted that 75% of tweets come from 5% of the Twitter community. But they just didn't actually make use of this information in their own research.

BARB Changes Afoot

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An interesting piece in Media Guardian this morning about some forthcoming changes to TV ratings from BARB.

I look forward to reading a bit more detail about how exactly they'll be able to monitor these new programme streams.

4.7bn Watched The Olympics?

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Neilsen Media Research - a fine media research company who I have contracts with via my employer - has released details of a story suggesting that 4.7bn people watched at least some of the Olympic coverage last month. That's out of a rough estimate of 6.6bn for the planet's population.

I'm always deeply suspicious of stories like that unless you have some really strong material to back it up.

As ever, there's no obvious detail on their website.

Let's try to break down the data a little. In China, the most populous nation on earth, we're told that 94% of their 1.4bn people watched at least some. That's high, but not unfeasible since these Olympics were in China, and the state TV company pretty much carried nothing but Olympics for the duration. If you watched TV in China, then you watched the Olympics. Perhaps that missing 6% don't actually own or even have access to a TV?

The next most populous country in the world is India with around 1.1bn living there. But the Olympics are not popular in that country, and it seems unlikely that even with India achieving its first ever individual gold, that the Olympics will have had strong viewing figures.

The next biggest countries are the US, which had strong viewership, and Indonesia.

Viewing was said to be strong in South Korea and Mexico. But how many of Pakistan's 165m or Bangladesh's 147m were watching?

The population of the entire African continent is just under 1bn. What proportion were watching the Olympics?

I'm always suspicious when global audiences are guestimated - 1bn for a domestic football cup, 1bn for a sport not widely played outside North America, etc. So I'd just like to see some detail to determine how these figures were derived. Apparently 37 markets were used. But which 37, and more importantly, which countries with large populations were excluded?

Musical Tastes and Personality

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A friend of mine pointed me towards this story based on some research that suggests that your musical tastes are linked to your personality.

I think she took exception to the idea that "heavy metal fans are gentle."

Obviously, making broad genearlisations like that is nonsense, but I wanted to learn a little more about this survey. It could prove very interesting with commercial aspects for radio stations surely?

A bit of Googling revealed this BBC story on the research, conducted by Prof. Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University. Prof. North is a highly published academic, who I believe has worked with Capital Radio in the past. And it would be terribly unfair to ridicule research that I've not seen the full findings for.

But then the BBC story states that the research is still ongoing (so I suppose that means no published findings, I certainly haven't turned any up), and says that they're still looking for more participants. Helpfully, the BBC provides a link to the research survey - peopleinmusic.com.

Well I had to have a look at this survey. I should note that it does randomise the order of the questions, and I didn't actually complete the questionnaire, but I reloaded it a few times to see a large selection of the questions (it's not as short as the BBC report claims), and I do have a few questions about some of the things it asked me.

It wanted to know the ages of my parents (or how old they were when they died if they were no longer alive) and the age of my best friend. I can't quite work out what that could be used for in the nature of a music research survey. While I don't doubt that my parents might have had an influence on my musical tastes, knowing my current age and the age that my parents died wouldn't be especially helpful. E.g. My dad might have died aged 30 yet I might be 35 today.

The questionnaire asked me if I was bi-, hetero- or homosexual. How is that musically relevant? Will that define whether or not I like Erasure?

Another question asks me to what extent I agree or disagree with the following:
a. Music is very important in my life
b. Music can arouse feelings of thrills and excitement in me.
c. It's really important that I am able to share thrilling, intense and stimulating experiences with my partner.
d. I often get bored with my partner.

Huh? What have the last two got to do with anything?

More questions ask me about whether or not I'm in a romatic relationship, who ended my last relationship and why it ended (If she cheated on me, does that make me more likely to enjoy country music?). How happy am I in my current relationship, and how long I've been in that relationship.

Now I'm not a psychologist, and I've never studied the subject, but it feels to me that this questionnaire is trying to look at more than just my personality traits in relation to the music I like. There are plenty of questions about music that I've not ntoed here, but I've got to wonder what the ultimate aim of this research is. I don't think the press story that's out there is the whole thing.

Self-selected samples - i.e. you've made the decision to go to this site and fill out an online survey - aren't great. And without seeing details of the findings, I can't really be certain whether Prof. North's results really are "significant" as he claims in the BBC piece.

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