[This is an article inspired by Chris Anderson, Author of 'Free: The Future of A Radical Price,' ' The Long Tail,' and Editor of Wired magazine, who was our morning speaker.]
I must start with a confession. When Chris started his talk, he stated that he was not going to be addressing the planned topic (the one that appeared in the show schedule)’which was to be on his popular book, ‘Free.’ Instead has was going to discuss his current passion, the rise of tablet computers.
The ‘Free’ topic had intrigued me. After all, as market researchers, pricing research in many markets gets rather complicated as we deal with the increasing notion ‘of ‘free’ and ‘freemium.’ I was looking forward to learning more about the topic.
But after awhile, Chris had me hooked.
His talk opened with the topic of, ‘The Web is Dead”a cover story from a recent Wired magazine issue. I had read the story in the magazine when it came out, and you can read for yourself here (LINK)’complete with some cool graphics. But the key point is all about applications. He sees a rising tide of ‘closed gardens’ on the Internet’and that is where is the best content and applications will live (relegating the ‘open’ web to enthusiasts, amateurs, and those applications that are only valuable if everyone can access them, such as shopping sites).
He also shared some fascinating data about the impact of tablet computers. According to Anderson, tablet computers (the iPad or any of an emerging plethora of choices) fundamentally change behavior as compared to laptop use. An anecdote that was light-hearted but telling: he shared that his wife bans laptops from the bedroom (keyboard typing sounds are not acceptable), but he is allowed to bring his iPad to bed. Anderson is clearly a fan of tablets; he also stated that his current laptop is probably his last’his future devices will be tablets, he asserts.
Ultimately, he focused on the idea of the web and laptops, versus the internet (closed applications not visible to Google) and tablets. His thesis is that there are trends towards both Internet-based applications and tablets that will fundamentally change what is possible (products, pricing) and how customers will behave (physically, product usage, and purchase behaviors).
So rather than further paraphrase his talk and the ‘Web is Dead’ article, let’s get right to the point: what does all of this stuff mean to market researchers? What are the specific opportunity and threats we will be facing?
1. Opportunities in Finger Tracking
Finger tracking will be a huge source of behavioral data. Analogous to eye tracking, finger tracking on a tablet gives researchers an objective measure of what ads get touched, how fingers move across a screen of choices, and so on. Tablet applications capture this data whether online or offline’so the data is objective, and whole. Amazing. Just sitting there I imagined how many fellow audience members are now plotting to open up agencies and technology providers dedicated to harvesting this new data source!
2. Tablets as a Data Gathering Device
Tablets are a reading device. According to Anderson, an analysis was done on one of Wired’s sister publications (he did not reveal which one), about average reading times per mode. The result?
- * Print (a standard magazine as published on paper) 60 minutes average reading
- * Web (reading the magazine on a web site) about 5 minutes (ouch)
- * iPhone client 55 minutes
- * iPad 100 minutes
That’s right, according to Anderson, for this particular publication the iPad average reading exceeds the amount of time the magazine is read in print. By a lot.
The things that can be done on a tablet, and perhaps even just the physical form factor’s size and weight, seems to have an impact on attention span, and willingness to engage. Could this apply to survey design? Could we see a resurgence in mall intercepts? Even (gasp!) door-to-door research? Other on-site research? All fueled by tablets? Could we design surveys with more media stimuli, more questions, if participants are more engaged?
3. Emerging Challenges for Social Media Research
Sentiment monitoring requires web scraping, and that depends on access to content. What happens if, indeed, the web is dead? If more real user behavior and chatter moves to the walled gardens from which sentiment monitoring tools are blocked? (For example, Google can’t see into Facebook discussions). If more premium content moves to closed systems, the very concept of being able to measure customer sentiment by monitoring consumer behavior and commentary online becomes challenged, does it not?
4. A New Form for Research Reports
Wired Magazine is selling an average of 30,000 iPad subscriptions a month. They are using the new device to totally redefine what a magazine is. Anderson invoked the image of Harry Potter’s wizarding newspaper, the Daily Prophet’where images and text move and seem alive. A magazine can now include animation, audio, video, social interactivity and so on.
So maybe that can also be true for market research reports? I remember years ago (and I do mean years) when most research reports were written (for you youngsters, that means as in a Word document instead of a PowerPoint or Keynote file). We all moved to PowerPoint as it became so easy to create visually compelling content in graphic form. All of the data could realistically be illustrated as charts and graphs. And soon followed the demise of the written research report.
Perhaps with tablets, we’ll see another massive change? Multimedia reports that balance the logical flow of the written word with the compelling visual impact of graphs, videos and animation? That can tie into team interactivity for shared highlighting of key points? Would our report reading times also nearly double? And wouldn’t that be amazing?
Thanks to Chris Anderson’s talk, I easily identified four potential changes for market research. And while on a deadline! I am sure there are many more. What ones can you add?
[Are you at TMRE? I have 5 copies of my book, 'How to Hire and Manage Market Research Agencies' to give away. Normally available on Amazon for $17. Just stop me and ask!]