Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

Your Communications Measurement Reading List for March 2018

In March, we’re taking a close look at an important component of the data collection process—the gathering of primary research. Primary research has long been used for marketing and PR programs, most commonly in the form of focus groups, but also encompassing other formats such as in-depth interviews (IDIs) and surveys.

We’ve collected some of the best articles we have found on the collection of primary research, along with other articles of interest to public relations professionals and communications measurement experts. From a piece questioning whether focus groups give participants a false sense of contributing to a professor who manipulated data to make studies go “viral,” to Twitter’s decision to research and measure the “health” of conversations on the platform, we hope you’ll find something interesting about research in this month’s reading list.

Primary Research, Focus Groups & Qualitative Data

Do focus groups provide us with the illusion that our voices matter when they really do not? That’s the argument made in a long-form piece in The Guardian. Titled “Talk is cheap: the myth of the focus group,” the article details the history of focus groups, and makes the case that focus groups further divide society. “There’s a lot of condescension,” one researcher interviewed for the article notes, from those observing focus groups toward those who participate in them.

MeasuringU features a post about problems that arise during the study design process, and recommends developing a grid to help provide focus. When designing studies, oftentimes there are multiple voices contributing to the structure, design, questions, and more–and having all of these stakeholders providing feedback can develop into a situation in which there are, perhaps, a few too many cooks in the kitchen. By designing a grid that includes the research goals and hypothesis along the top and how these questions will be answered along the side, additions that fit into the grid add to the study design while those that float outside of it will distract. It’s a simple but effective tool to help you stay on course.

Recently, The Measurement Standard wrote about p-hacking and the replicability crisis. Now, Buzzfeed News reports on the case of an Ivy League professor manipulating data to make his studies go viral. Emails reveal Brian Wansink, the head of Cornell’s food psychology research unit whose findings have appeared in major publications, requesting his graduate student to massage the data from a failed study into seemingly significant results.

Twitter has announced it will be researching how people interact on its platform. The announcement comes as social platforms begin to reckon with how their sites may be contributing to a deterioration in public discourse. “If you want to improve something, you have to be able to measure it,” says Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. In a recent series of tweets, Dorsey acknowledge his platform’s growing problem with trolls, harassment, and abusive content and stated his commitment to measuring the health of conversation on Twitter. Recode discusses the steps Twitter is taking to continue to combat the issue and the four indicators the company could use to measure the health of their conversations.

Data doesn’t mean anything if you can’t analyze it and gain insight that drives better decision-making. Artist Laurie Frick creates data-driven art with exactly this goal in mind. She began this artistic endeavor by collecting data about her sleep patterns and turning the information into watercolor paintings. Silicon Valley companies hire Frick, who has both an MBA and MFA, to present her unique ideas. Her visualizations of data emphasizes the importance for communicators to embrace the art and science of data integration.

Media, Crisis Communications & Brand Safety

A media newsroom expanding? In 2018? Yes, you read that right. The Atlantic is on a hiring spree, and is planning on adding 100 new employees to its ranks over the coming year. The New York Times notes this announcement came on the same day that Vox made public its decision to lay off 50 of its employees, primarily in social video, across several of its properties.

Facebook has announced it will spend $3 million to assist local newspapers with building out digital subscriptions, according to a post on Poynter. The participating papers are from some of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, including The Denver Post, The Boston Globe, and The Chicago Tribune. Facebook’s Journalism Project will invest the money over three months to help between 10 to 15 publications beef up their digital subscriptions.

If you haven’t heard by now, KFC, a restaurant that literally has chicken in its name, ran out of chicken. Franchises in England were forced to shut down last week after a supplier issue caused a shortage of chicken. Although this could’ve been a major problem for the company, its PR team responded with a humorous full page ad in a British newspaper. discusses crisis management lessons that PR professionals can learn from their response. No word yet on how they might manage the gravy crisis.

Brands have struggled with how to manage online advertising transparency and placement. Digital ads can show up next to questionable content–either not on brand-message, or outright offensive–and platforms have been slow to respond to brand demands for more transparency on where ads will appear. Bank of America has decided to take a very proactive approach by creating the position of Brand Safety Officer, whose responsibility it will be to protect the bank’s brand and its customers while ensuring the advertising spend is allocated wisely.

Social Platforms in the News

Pew Research has released findings about the current makeup of social platforms’ audiences in the US. As would likely be expected, there are substantial differences in platform use by age group. Most US adults regularly use Facebook and YouTube, according to the survey results. Snapchat is the go-to platform for those in the 18-24 age bracket, with nearly 71 percent of its users in that age range using the site multiple times per day. Instagram is seeing increasing use according to Pew’s numbers. One of the most interesting differences between the age groups, however, were the responses to the question of whether it would be hard to give up social media sites. Just over half (51 percent) of young users age 18-24 say it would be “hard to give up” social media; of those age 25-29 only 40 percent said it would be hard; age 30-49, 43 percent; and of those 50 and over, only 33 percent felt it would be difficult.

Following concerns about the fallout from changes to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, one site has been forced to close its doors. LittleThings, a four year old site that shared positive stories and videos, previously relied on Facebook for 75 percent of its organic reach. The recent changes to its algorithm, which puts an emphasis on prioritizing user content over publisher content, hurt the site so much, it was unable to continue its operations.

More on Facebook–they’ve just rolled out their job posts feature, with a target of capturing the job seekers who aren’t on LinkedIn. Companies can post jobs available to their Facebook page, and job seekers can use proximity or other filters to zero in on what they are looking for. TechCrunch notes the availability has expanded from the initial testing in the US and Canada, and now includes “Brazil, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain on iOS, Android, and the web.”

If you’ve ever thought “that looks like an interesting link on Twitter but I don’t have time to read it,” then Twitter has news for you. The platform just launched bookmarking functionality that has a notable feature: it allows users to save stuff privately to read later. Users can of course like Tweets in order to find them later, but depending on the content, affirming it with a “heart-shaped like” just so you can find it later can prove to be problematic.

Google has released its report on “right to be forgotten” requests. As the world gears up for the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation, set to go into effect on May 25, 2018, data from Google’s report presents an interesting read. Most requests come from France, Germany, and the UK–those three comprise 51 percent of all delisting requests. Of the 2.4 million requests received, Google has responded to just over 43 percent. The rest of the requests were denied due to a variety of factors, including duplicate URLs, other solutions exist to address the concerns, or leaving the information public was “strongly in the public interest.”

In the last several days, the social app Vero has nearly tripled its registered users from less than one million to almost three million and shot to the top ten apps in the Google and iOS app stores. Could this new app, which emphasizes visuals, actually be real competition for giants like Instagram and Snapchat? Ayman Hariri, one of the apps co-founders, talks to Entrepreneur about how Vero differs from other social platforms, why it recently went viral, and controversy that the app already faces.

The Measurement Standard

The Measurement Standard

The Measurement Standard (TMS) is the definitive monthly newsletter dedicated to advancing media measurement and evaluation as a vital business and communication tool.TMS is published by CARMA, a global provider of measurement services.
The Measurement Standard
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