Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Measuring Media Consumption

Ah, we return to the blog's original purpose -- discussing research. In this case, research on how to measure people's media consumption, a kinda important thing if you happen to be in the media business (academic, or otherwise).

This new study examines one technique. I provide the abstract below because, dammit, even on my university computer I can't access the entire article. Yeah, BS. But still, let's look at what we have and I'll try to break it down for you best I can.
How to measure exposure to information in the media is highly disputed, primarily due to the difficulties of obtaining accurate self-reports. The growing supply of outlets and proliferation of information sources have added an additional level of complexity to these problems. Reflecting on old and new approaches for measuring exposure to political information, it is argued that both the specific source and the frequency of exposure must be taken into account. The validity of this so-called “list-frequency technique” is tested using a two-wave panel survey as well as a split sample experiment from the survey pre-test to enable comparison with the “list technique.” The results support the list-frequency technique in being a good solution, since it provides the same aggregate estimates of media use as the already validated list technique, and may give more detailed effect estimates and increase the explained variance when predicting political knowledge.
Let's do it this way, by taking key concepts one at a time.

  • Self-reports. Most of our survey work depends on self-reports of news consumption. You know, questions like how many days a week do you watch television news. Or how often do you watch Fox News. Or something like that. But as House often tells us: "People lie." They lie about how often they vote, how often they attend religious services, and they lie about the media they consume and how often they consume it. Or if they don't lie, they misreport in a fashion that makes them look better. In other words, these measures are full of error.
  • List-Frequency is just what it sounds like, a technique in which people tell us what media they consume and then how often. Often this is more specific than our apriori questions that focus on a generic term, like television news, or even specific networks or programs.
  • The down side? It adds time and complexity to a survey instrument. But the method, according to the abstract, provides more explanatory power when predicting what people know.

For $41 I could read the whole article. Yeah, right.

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