Posts Tagged ‘Newspapers’

Why it’s important to always look past “survey” story headlines

Last Friday, the Toronto Star online ran a story about a new Angus Reid survey titled, “Newspapers among most trusted media, survey finds.” This headline did what it was supposed to do: got my attention. It did so because it suggested a result contrary to the conventional wisdom that newspapers are dying a fast and richly deserved death. However, upon closer inspection, that contrary result is not so clear. Here’s what the Star quoted from the survey:

Among consumers of all ages surveyed, family and friends were the most trusted source of information, at 78 per cent and 68 per cent respectively, followed by radio at 45 per cent, print newspapers at 41 per cent, online news sites at 39 per cent, television at 31 per cent, print magazines at 28 per cent and finally online social networks and blogs, at 13 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, Reid said.

The problem is that the results confuse “sources” like family and friends with “channels” like blogs and social networks. So the survey tells us lots of people trust their family and friends as sources but ignores the fact they use multiple channels – blogs, social networks, face-to-face –  to communicate with them. If the surveyors are confusing channels and sources then chances are good respondents are too and that makes the results questionable. The other thing that makes them questionable is the respondents are paid. The article says, “Vision Critical [who Angus Reid works with] has developed hundreds of “panels” of people willing to participate in multiple surveys, for which they are paid $1 to $4 per survey”. Last time I checked “random” samples weren’t drawn exclusively from people paid to answer questions.

Look closely before you quote surveys or, more importantly, base marketing and communications decisions on them.

ps. There was no link to the actual survey in the article.

Wednesday morning I attended a panel discussion titled News 2.0 – the future of media in a digital world with panelists Kady O’Malley, CBCNews.ca political blogger;
Andrew Potter, Ottawa Citizen Online Politics Editor and MacLean’s Public Affairs columnist and Christopher Waddell, Director of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communications. The discussion was all about how media, especially newspapers, are – or aren’t – adapting to the rise of the internet.

There was a good amount of talk about how some newspapers are doing to die but the irony is the format of the panel itself was a key example of one reason why.

The presentation, put on by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), cost $35 for non-members and featured five minute panelist remarks followed by a question and answer session. That seems OK but when I asked if I could record and podcast the session the IPAC host told me she’d have to ask the IPAC chapter board members that were there. She did and then told me they had refused.

This is an example of the kind of behaviour that will kill all newspapers that keep doing it: hoarding and selling information via old models instead of sharing information and finding new ways to make money.

Telling was that in the question and answer period I asked the panelists if they heard of the UK’s Guardian newspaper releasing all their content for free via an API. The idea is to spread the content everywhere for free and make money by eventually requiring developers to carry ads from a future Guardian ad network. It’s kind of Googleizing the news. Brilliant.

None of the panelists said they had heard of this. It seems owners of Canada’s major newspapers haven’t either.

ps. The Guardian also launched a $3.99 iPhone app in December 2009.