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No Research Is Better Than Bad Market Research

For the past few days, news gossip site FTV Live has chronicled survey research being conducted by Cox owned WFTV in Orlando. From the screenshots posted in the stories, it appears WFTV is testing potential anchor changes with area viewers using an online survey with embedded video.

Potential leaks are always a possibility with online survey work since respondents can take screenshots of the questions or take a picture of the screen with a smart phone or tablet. That’s why you should test multiple topics or try to balance the questions to mask the sponsor or goals of the research.

Not only does it help protect your business strategies, it also improves the quality of the research.

For example, if I’m a loyal viewer of a competing station’s news programming and it is rather apparent that the sponsor of the research is WFTV, knowing the likely sponsor could impact how respond to the questions being posed in the survey.

FTV remarks that “Cox won't change the paint color in the men's room at the station without fully researching it first and having a focus group weigh in.”

First, let me say that Cox is a good and well respected operator among the current media companies left standing.

However, if the screenshots are any indication of the research being conducted, they should just save the time, money, and effort.

Without going into all of the issues I see in these questions, let me just say that trusting your gut and your experience is far better than basing a decision on bad research.

Not so long ago, I spent a few years working for another media company that is often accused of relying a little too heavily on research. I’ve seen work whose sole purpose is to offer cover, support, or opposition for a predetermined business decision that had already been put in place. If the decision (i.e. a new anchor pairing) flops, managers can then use the “it tested well” argument to deflect any criticism they may face down the road.

This creates the corporate researcher’s paradox. Do it right and have the results potentially conflict with management wishes, or go along to get along and live to see another day.

The latter course of action is better for career advancement, and the former is better for our profession. 

I know it’s difficult and counterintuitive, but if you are good researcher and the wrong tools or questions are going to end up being used, recommend against the research. Cite budget issues or the opportunity to deploy the funds elsewhere for things like promotion.

Do what you can to avoid taking the hit down the road if the project goals go south.

Corporate researchers in rapidly changing industries like broadcast media have one of the most difficult jobs imaginable battling more demands amid shrinking resources.

I feel your pain.

So please do what you can to stop a bad research project or call a consultant in to fight the battle for you if you can’t stop it on your own.

Our industry is facing enough issues right now. So please be honest with the limitations of what can or can’t be done using market research.

Your future career and our industry may depend on it.