My friend Nigel Hollis at Millward Brown, the big research firm that measures advertising effectiveness, reports that the majority of his firm’s survey work now is conducted online, versus over the phone or via snail mail. Millward Brown is ahead of most. However, Nigel notes that:
…along with the benefits of speed and cost…this rate of expansion [online] also brings problems. In order to meet the expanded demand our sample providers are struggling to keep up. Young males are a particularly scarce commodity, because many of our clients wish to talk to them.
I would argue that young males are not scarce, but their attention is. Just as advertisers are having a tough time dealing with the fact that attention is the new scarcity (not shelf space or distribution pipelines), so are survey and sample comapanies, whose models of interception and respondent-reporting are dependent on that same scarce attention.
That’s one reason passive, observational and behavioral-based market research and analytic models — which demand little or no disruption and attention from their human subjects — will continue to become a very big deal. Participative and active community models are worth noting as well, though most old-school statisticians will balk at that idea.
Communispace is a great example of the asiprations of the community model, though I think the idea can be taken a lot further. I think a lot of publisher Web sites, who host and nurture robust communities, have the biggest opportunity to engage in this model. They could move beyond harvesting their member data to support their ad sales, and start conducting real research for marketers who wish to purchase it. Imagine if Rotten Tomatoes or Netflix started selling their own analysis, or access to various segments of their member base for market-research purposes.
From a consumer perspective, call it research-supported media, as opposed to ad-supported media. As a consumer, I’d be willing to trade some of my valuable attention in exchange for publisher content – as opposed to being held captive to irrelevant brandalism.