Who Are These People?

It’s hard to read those words and not hear Jerry Seinfeld wondering about people who are unusual in one sense or another. It’s the question that arose in a casual lobby bar discussion of research samples at the recent NAB Radio Show in Atlanta.

The discussion began with someone pondering those who will still cooperate with “random” telephone interviews. After all, random residential phone samples used to be the gold standard for market research. Less than two decades ago nearly 99% of US households had a landline telephone. Calling random residential numbers was a very appropriate way to sample people in the country – until technology changed things, of course.

Since the mid-1990’s, the proliferation of caller ID meant that a growing number of consumers ignored calls from unfamiliar numbers, raking many would-be respondents off the table. Through the 2000’s cellphones and then smartphones have become ubiquitous, with many consumers giving up landline phones. Our NuVoodoo Ratings Prospect Studies show landline penetration down to just under half among 18-54’s – and under a quarter once you remove Do-Not-Call list participants and those who use caller ID to screen calls.

Across the same time span, Neilsen and now Nielsen Audio have switched their first point of contact with most would-be respondents from the phone to the mailbox, expanding beyond those who’ll answer a landline phone. And so NuVoodoo hung up the phone as well and moved online.

Not all online samples are created equal – and that became the second part of the “Who Are THESE People” conversation. Station email databases and website opt-ins, like RateTheMusic™ aren’t research; they’re a request line on the Internet (and a great marketing tool in some cases).

At NuVoodoo we leverage the national (and worldwide) online sample panels that have been built out for consumer research serving a wide array of businesses: automotive, banking & financial services, consumer package goods, healthcare, telecommunications and more. Our respondents were invited to participate in an initial research survey because of their relationship with one of many thousands of businesses along the way. Having completed that initial survey, they were invited to register to do future surveys in exchange for small rewards (just like PPM wearers and diary keepers).

We now have relationships with over 60 online research sample panels, giving NuVoodoo access to millions and millions of respondents across the country. The total number of contacts online exceeds the population available by telephone, after netting down to the percentage of landline households who will answer a call and participate in a research study at the exact moment they are called. When these online samples are properly screened and managed, their results replicate – again and again.

Anyone who’s looked under the hood on an on-going telephone callout project knows that it’s a struggle not to use the same respondents over and over and over. Vendors aim to repeat no more than once in 30 days, but it gets tougher every year. In the NuVoodoo callout replacement program, Online Music Research (OMR), we see real-world results with 24 or 48 reports a year, 100 fresh respondents every time (no rolled samples) and one or two respondents repeat once in a year.

So, to answer our question, who are these people?

On the phone, who knows? They’re among the few aberrant people who will answer an unexpected call and give up 5-10 minutes of their time for no reward. Would you?

Online? They’re part of a growing population of cooperative souls who will engage and willingly answer our questions in exchange for modest rewards – just like the people who populate the samples that yield the ratings that power advertising sales for radio stations.