Let me categorically state from the onset that my submission does not seek to critique the findings of the Zimbabwe All Media Products Survey (Zamps) based on the market results thereof, but on the basis of glaring research inadequacies that are potentially detrimental to the research’s credibility.
guest opinion BY NIGEL NYAMUTUMBU
The Zimbabwe Advertising Research Foundation (Zarf), a body that brings together media organisations and advertising stakeholders commissions Zamps in order to undertake market research for advertisers.
Undoubtedly, the objectives of Zamps are quite noble and relevant not only for media managers, advertisers and investors but also for media development practitioners like me, who can use such survey findings to plan strategic interventions to promote media development in the country.
However, over the years the Zamps findings have been leaving more questions than answers, not least due to their flawed, if not shallow research methodologies and often recycled data, but also dubious results.
The report is still largely referenced by media organisations and advertisers despite the controversies.
From my standpoint, the survey fails to meet the basic tenets of a good research. It is common knowledge that good research makes use of credible information sources, including the ability to verify the authenticity or trustworthiness of that particular source.
Good research should demonstrate understanding of the subject matter, at least in the context of the intended users or audiences.
As I initially highlighted, the Zamps research mainly targets advertisers, who in part support the commissioning of the survey.
Naturally, advertisers are keen on assessing the impact and reach of their adverts and such reports should assist them in monitoring the media market.
If properly conducted, such surveys should help advertisers understand consumer trends, including analysing specific patterns such as gender, age and income brackets, for example.
The Zamps questionnaire seeks to get this data from the participants yet the information remains devoid of other contextual realities.
I am convinced that the entry point of the survey should be assessing the percentage proposition of the people with access to the media and in what form.
For example, while on one hand, an individual participant may listen to Star FM simply because it is the only station that can transmit in Ex-Japanese cars, on the other hand access to the media can be a question of power or even patriarchy.
Some youths and women participants do not have access to diverse media platforms, but as secondary consumers, they have access to what their male counterparts, whether their fathers or husbands, have access to.
In other words, should a homestead centre of power, as a matter of choice, buy a certain publication or tune into certain radio and TV stations, the entire family accesses that form of media notwithstanding that they are potential independent consumers.
This point was buttressed in the findings of the government commissioned Information and Media Panel of Inquiry who reported that a significant population outside the traditional big cities do not have access to multiple sources of information.
I am sure advertisers would benefit even more by having empirical evidence to that effect such that they can make informed decisions.
Such research would also benefit the media organisations themselves, policy makers and media stakeholders.
The survey findings as was presented on January 24 2017 had even more bizarre findings.
For instance, the survey assesses the readership of publications that are no longer in operation including The Southern Eye and The Zimbabwean, with the former now being an insert in the NewsDay.
These newspaper publications had a percentage decrease in readership in the last three months.
Without doubt, the Zamps findings are to an extent indicative of the media industry in so far as analysing audience patterns and in scanning the environment.
However, the shortcomings in so far as research methodologies and approach distort the results of an otherwise relevant exercise.
It is in the best interest of Zarf and every media stakeholder to have a credible research that will assist the media to improve content and compete fairly. We certainly deserve better.