No one wants to admit it, but yes I watch the Bachelor. I had watched it religiously since last year, and I am one of the almost one million viewers (tvtonight.com) who partake in the treacherous, glitzy, champagne filled hour of one Bachelor surrounded by a dozen women vying for his love. What the ratings won’t know, and what quantitative research will never know, is how much I truly loathe this damn show.
This is where the traditional forms of quantitative data research in media falls short. It counts only the viewers, and not why the viewers are watching. I can contest, that my family & I do not watch The Bachelor for our faith in finding love on reality TV, we watch it because it is so incredibly terrible. We cringe at every over-played stereotypical and contrived move the bachelor and the bachelorette’s are forced to make- from ‘romantic’ photo-shoots to jelly pool wrestling, or last years infamous dirty street pie.
According to Oztam, the last episode of the Bachelor garnered 898,000 viewers (Consolidated Metropolitan Top 20 Programs – Free To Air Only Week 31 2015, via Oztam) . Oztam, and other quantitative data gatherers are only designed to gather how many tune in, the ratings,. Oztam has no idea how much I hate the show, and my viewing being narrowed down to only a number, fuels the success of the show. 911,000 on average have watched the Bachelor, but how many of them also hated it too?
Quantitative data is still a vital part of media research for how media is produced and distributed. Tools like collaborative ethnography and Buzzmetrics can help fill in the qualitative blanks quantitative cannot see. Neilsen’s Buzzmetrics engine gathers insights and opinions from all across all social networks and groups to find out what people are really saying about the show. It includes how the consumers feel about the product or show, the online conversations generated by the material and arising controversies- as such was generated by last weeks episode of the Bachelor. (Lecture Slides, Week 3)
Three girls were seen being ‘tricked’ into identical dates designed to see how they’d react to a flat tire or an over-flirty waitress- picked to push their buttons and start a girl-fight or tearfest and heighten the drama. It ended with one girl opting out, having enough of the games and tricks, and many viewers following in her footsteps. Buzzmetrics also measures consumer’s level of engagement across multiple platforms, alternately and together, and the amount of social media interaction between viewers, cast and creators of a show. The host of the Bachelor has been, in one sense of the word, very engaged with social media for promoting the show. (nielsensocial.com)
Ethnography, on the other hands, encompasses the studying of the culture aspects of an audience, studying the people’s point of view of their cultural beliefs, history and preferences. Basically the collaborative study of factors affecting a subject, not just the quantitative or qualitative. It allows a broader and deeper understanding and analysing of an issue, as Lassiter explored. Collaborative ethnography allows a free flow of information between the researcher, collaborator and subject, and useful information will not be drowned out or reduced to a number out of 911,000 (Lassiter. 2005)
Using quantitative research to analyse contemporary media will remain an essential, albeit flawed element of understanding media use in the home. Just as qualitative can be flawed without its proper use. Numbers and ratings are meaningless without something else attached to them, and without qualitative data they’d never understand the stories behind the numbers.
Lassiter, L. (2005) Defining A Collaborative Ethnography, University of Chicago Press, http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html (Accessed: 17 August 2015)
Nielsen Social (2015) What Moves the Social TV Needle? http://www.nielsensocial.com/what-moves-the-social-tv-needle/ (Accessed: 17 August 2015).
OZTAM (2015) Consolidated Metropolitan Top 20 Programs 5 City Ranking Report – Free To Air Only Week 31 2015 (26/7/15 – 1/8/2015) 02:00 – 25:59 http://www.oztam.com.au//documents/2015/OzTAM-20150726-EMetFTARankSumCons.pdf (Accessed: 17 August 2015)