How NOT To Use Focus Group Research
I was at that presentation. The study consisted of six focus groups.
Imagine, an entire demographic group consisting of more than 68.5 million people, labeled as uninspired by radio by unscientific research conducted among what was probably fewer than 50 of its members.
That's the danger of focus groups. Without appropriate follow-up, statements by an unrepresentative few participants soon morph into sweeping generalizations that are acted on as fact. Good researchers know the most appropriate use of focus groups to help formulate questions for larger statistical studies. They never project focus group results to entire populations.
Public radio has done a pretty good job of avoiding this pitfall in the past. Focus groups findings have been tested by statistically valid phone studies, auditorium tests, and Arbitron recontact studies. That's why public radio has such a good track record of successfully applying research to programming decisions. And perhaps that's one of the reasons public radio had such a long streak of audience growth at the same time commercial radio listening was in a free-fall.