MRI TO SOLVE RESEARCH WOES-BY YEAR 2001: RESPONDENTS TO READERSHIP STUDY WILL RISE 50% OVER NEXT 4 YEARS

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Mediamark Research Inc. said it has a solution to complaints about unevenness in its reporting system, but full implementation of the plan won't happen for another four years.

By the year 2001, MRI said last week, it will increase the number of respondents to its national syndicated study 50% to 30,000 annually, a move it claims will eventually lower sampling error 18%.

PRAISE AND CRITICISM

Agency executives had guarded praise, but at least one was sharply critical of the time frame.

"Four years is glacial," said Sam Sotiriou, exec VP-worldwide media director at Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York. "It is too long a time period."

He said that means only 2,500 additional respondents will be added to the survey each year.

The staffing is being done gradually to assure that the interviewers are properly trained. "If we could do it tomorrow with an assurance of quality, we would," said Julian Baim, MRI research director-senior VP. "Interviewers themselves are a scarce resource."

Conde Nast Publications-in the past a harsh critic of MRI-also was conditional in its praise.

"I think it is a responsive, responsible move," said Steve Blacker, VP-research for Conde Nast, but he stopped short of saying that all differences are resolved.

Earlier, Conde Nast said it planned to dump MRI after its current $1 million contract expires in fall 1997 because executives believed MRI did a poor job of capturing readership for upscale special-interest titles.

MRI is slated to meet with top executives of Conde Nast this week to discuss the situation.

'MORE ROBUST DATA'

"I think it will help solve some of [MRI's] problems," said Mr. Sotiriou. "It will reduce some of the bounce in data for magazines, and it should give more robust data for products."

Another MRI critic, U.S. News & World Report Publisher Tom Evans, was unimpressed.

"It doesn't make the integrity of the data any better . . . There are still too many magazines and too many products that they're trying to study with one survey."

Said Alan Ching, senior VP-director of planning and research at Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco: "It should help, but I don't know how I feel about . . . the increased price."

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