You have been charged with researching the value of directing a media buy toward a specific platform such as TV, radio, print yellow pages, or Google PPC. How far should your due diligence go? In our digital information bonanza, I miss yesterday’s trip to the university library to pull out a giant binder of full survey research papers. Yes, I can find the full papers online but they are needles in shoddy research SEO haystacks.

Accountability of “research” is diminishing. What is the connection to the accompanying trend of widespread anonymity? Perhaps we’d rather not know.

Granted, survey research has never been guaranteed bias-free. But faster, efficiently indexed information at our fingertips costs us data integrity.

yellowpages phone book flipping page

A new study released by AT&T claims that PYP (print yellow pages) advertising is highly relevant for marketers:

…The conclusion that print Yellow Pages are still valuable for advertisers and consumers was confirmed in another study by CRM Associates, which is a market analysis and consulting firm headquartered in Boulder, Colo. -Ken Ray, AT&T Advertising Solutions

Amidst many other studies demonstrating evidence that champions digital media spend, I needed to examine AT&T’s research methods:

Three AT&T study references of PRNewswire:  Consumers Turn to AT&T’s Real Yellow Pages Directories More Often Than Others:
1. In Charge Blog 4/18/11: Yellow Pages Turns to Local Search ** – Angus Loten

2. * 4/6/11: Latest Research Confirms Yellow Pages Still Premiere Provider in Local Search
3. 4/6/11: Research: AT&T Says Print YP Still Strong -Greg Sterling

*EIDQ: First off, Ken Ray states that the findings confirm. No. Research findings never confirm hypotheses. They provide evidence that supports. Please refer to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions or a Survey Research Methods 101 class.

CRM Associates home

2. How seriously can we regard data from CRM when their website looks like this, with landing page audio and prominent offer of 2 CDs (compact discs) for $24.95 resembling Now That’s What I Call Music. The president has an email address. Etc.

Back to AT&T’s original release. Issues:

  • Research bias, reporting bias, verification error: Study by Omnicom-owned M/A/R/C Research was sponsored by AT&T, a major PYP provider. (Caveat: Both have a stake in digital.)
  • Design bias: Question credibility and interests of companies involved
  • Inclusive bias: Sample selected for convenience (50,000 adults in 125 AT&T-serviced markets)
  • Correlation mistaken for causation

**WSJ blog states that 2/3 of U.S. adults still use print yellow pages. The statistic comes from “a local survey” by the Local Search Association (formerly the Yellow Pages Association). I have been unable to locate the original. (Can you?)

The stat may or may not be valid. But the real question is: Why is it so difficult to track down transparent, substantiated evidence?