January 13, 2011

Pseudo-Scientists At War

According to Ad AgeForrester and Nielsen can't agree on how much time people spend with TV and the web. As a matter if fact, they are so far apart it's ridiculous.

Forrester says people spend as much time each week on the web as they do watching TV -- about 13 hours each. Nielsen says, no way. They say people spend less than 13 hours on the web and 34 hours with TV -- almost three times as much. It's very clear that someone is very, very wrong here. Who? Damned if I know.

As regular readers know, I used to teach science in middle school. As a result, I have nothing but admiration for the scientific method and nothing but contempt for most of the advertising, marketing, and media research I see.

There is little rigor in it, there are almost never adequate controls, and the interpretation of results is usually done for the benefit of whoever paid for the study.

Many research companies will throw a few questions up on the internet or interview some people and think that they've done science. This "research" would be hooted out of any reputable science lab in the world.

In the dispute between Forrester and Nielsen, Nielsen claims that Forrester's research is based on a survey (i.e., self-reported) and their (Nielsen's) research is based on observed behavior.  If Nielsen's characterization is correct, then I have to lean toward their numbers being closer to reality. Self-reported data is almost always nonsense.

By the way, I'm not the only one who has contempt for much of the research conducted in marketing and other soft sciences. Here's a clip of Nobel genius Richard Feynman, which I have used before, on this subject:

What's Are 3.7 Million Fans Worth?
Great story in the NYTimes yesterday about the evaporation of MySpace. My favorite part is about Tila Tequila, the famous-for-being-famous disposable pop star, whose MySpace page has 3.7 million fans. Only problem? 
"...she does not even remember her MySpace password."

No comments: