It’s one of the dirty little secrets of market research that the time-honored audience questionnaires are about as accurate as sitting down and playing "let’s pretend."  Especially here in L.A. – as exemplified by some of my friends who are unemployed actors.

They gleefully told me that what they referred to as their “part-time” job was all figured out – they conspired with the various market research firms in town. Many of them maintained three or
four different identities to use – they’d be a housewife for a research testing some new laundry detergent, a hipster raver for a new energy drink, a depressed former mental patient for a clinical trial, etc. etc. The one overriding consideration was how not to get asked to stay after lunch.

They’d spend their mornings looking at the product and talking about how much they hated every little thing about it. Then they’d eat the Pollo Loco or whatever, and then, since they didn’t like the
product, the marketers would tell them to go home.


They’d get their checks for $75 or $125 and then go home and practice screaming and pretending they were afraid for the Troma low-budget horror night shoot.

All this as a longwinded intro to this piece in Ad
Age that talks about how Corporate America is starting to seriously monitor
what people say in blogs.

I’ve long tried to convince my friends that the blogs are
more than just a place for wackos to babble about how the Elders of Zion
planted shaped charges in the Twin Towers on Sept. 10, or for narcissistic teenage girls to gush about how the lead
singer for Deathcab for Cuties looks like he has an armadillo stuffed down the
front of his trousers. 

No, the blogs are in the purest sense of the word, Vox
Populi. They are a true barometer for what people care about and what they feel
passionate about. Even the best market
research falls prey to the Schrodinger’s Cat syndrome – where the act of
observing influences the actions of the observed. There are some exceptions – like in the
mini-research I’ve done, where it’s not so much what people say, but HOW THEY

For example, for the piece on
Bakotopia, it wasn’t that people wrote in gushing – it’s that they not only
wrote in, but they went out and recruited their friends on Bakotopia to write
in as well. What that tells me is that the
social-networking effect that they talk about is strongly at work here – the users
have become the evangelizers, and damn effective ones at that.

Meanwhile, over at Google, there’s the “Zeitgeist” meter
– which shows you what are the most popular search terms, broken down by month
and by country. Again, very revealing. Obviously, if you know what a person really
wants, you can tell what it is that that person is all about. And I’m not sure if I felt good, bad, baffled
or dismayed to learn that in Holland, Malaysia, Greece, Mexico,
etc. etc. – one of the top ten searches was for Paris Hilton. 

That skank truly is worldwide. Can anyone explain this to me? I know that we’re
stupid-ass kookoo for cocoapuffs drooling morons here in the U.S.for the Cult of Celebrity as exemplified by my former employers and US, In
Touch, etc.

But whatinhell kind of connection
can Paris have to the lives of the
average Malaysian? She’s had one movie – House of Wax – and one grainy sex
tape. And a TV series. Maybe that’s it – the TV series got syndicated…

Anyway, all this to blather in, around and all over the point that the word of mouth on the web and its importance is an idea that is gaining serious traction. 

The next step, of course, is to take this kind of analysis down to a real granular level.  But more about that in a bit…

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