Flash Mind Reader

Doc:  Have you seen the “Flash Mind Reader” on the Internet.  It’s like magic!  Do you know how it works? - Jim


Jim:  To see the “magic” website Jim refers to, click here: Flash Mind Reader.  It’s very clever.


If you don’t want to know how it works, then stop reading now.  Some people get a little upset at the simplicity of “magic,” and I don’t want to spoil anyone’s entertainment.  Here is how it works:


The instruction is: “Choose any two-digit number, add together both digits, and then subtract that total from your original number.”  Now, if you computed the formula for every number from 0 to 99, you will find that there are only 9 possible answers for the entire table using the formula.  They are:


90s = 81

80s = 72

70s = 63

60s = 54

50s = 45

40s = 36

30s = 27

20s = 18

10s = 9


OK?  When you click on the file link above that I included for you, it will pop up in a smaller screen.  If you leave that open, you can check all this stuff.


Now, look at the symbol for “9”…see that?  Now look at the other possible answers (81, 72, 63, etc.)  They are the same symbol as the “9” symbol—every possible answer has the same symbol.  Regardless of which number you randomly pick to test the “Mind Reader,” there are only 9 possible answers and those 9 answers have the same symbol.


The reason you may be confused is that the symbols change when you click on the “Try Again” button.


Not magic.  Just simple arithmetic and a table that changes each time.  Before you hit the “Crystal Ball” for your answer, just look at the symbol for “0” to see what your answer will be.

Fleeting Expletives

What is the current FCC stance on "fleeting expletives" such as the one uttered by Diane Keaton recently on "Good Morning America?"  I believe there were those trying to pass a bill saying "fleeting expletives" could be subject to a fine, and there were others fighting it. - Anonymous


Anon:  As of now, there are no fines for fleeting expletives.  You can read about it if you click here.  If you want to read more stuff, click here.

Fly in Car

Let's say I was in the back of a Mayflower truck going down the highway at 65 mph and there was a chalk line drawn where my feet were.  If I jumped straight up, would my feet have moved back when I come down?  In other words, would the truck move under me?


If so, why are bugs that fly around in moving cars not squashed by the rear window?  Certainly, they can't fly at 65 mph. - Anonymous


Anon:  In both examples, you and the fly are moving along at the same speed as the vehicle.  When you jump up in the truck, the truck won’t move under you while you stay stationary.  You will move with the truck (this all relates to Newton’s First Law (an object in uniform motion will continue that motion as long as it is not acted upon by an outside force) and will land in the same place you would if the truck were stopped.


The fly isn’t squashed on the back window because the air inside the car is moving along as the same speed as the car.  It’s similar to you sitting in the car at that speed and throwing a ball up in the air.  The ball goes up and comes down in your hand because it’s also moving at the same speed.

Fly in Car – Part 2

Your answer to the person asking about a fly in the car and jumping in trucks left me corn-fused!  If I am in a traveling truck, and I jump up, wouldn't I no longer be moving at the same speed as the traveling truck?  It seems like my horizontal movement would be counteracted by my vertical jump.  Please help me make sense of this issue, so I can edit my music logs with a focused brain.  Thanks! - Anonymous


Anon:  Hmm…we need to get you back to your music logs.  The answer to your question, as I indicated in the earlier question, relates to physics and Newton’s First Law of Motion.


If you are in a traveling vehicle, you are traveling at the same speed as the vehicle.  When you jump up, you are traveling at the speed of the vehicle.  You can conduct an experiment to check this out.  When you’re a passenger in a car (don’t do this while you’re driving), throw a ball or a coin in the air.  If you throw the item straight up, it will land in your hand.  It won’t fall down and hit you in the arm or somewhere else.


The ball or coin is moving at the same speed as the vehicle and the same thing will happen if you jump up in a moving truck—you’re the “ball” or the “coin,” and if you jump up in the air, you will land in the same place (as long as the driver doesn’t slam on the brakes).


If you don't want to take my word, here are a few Internet searches for you.  Not all the references are relevant, but there is enough reading to keep you busy after your music logs are finished: Land in Same Place One and Land in Same Place Two.

Flying Times

Doc:  Do you know of any websites that show the flying time between one city and another?  I can't find anything.  Thanks. - Anonymous


Anon:  Here are two sites that will help you:  Flying One and Flying Two.

FM Frequencies (Odd & Even)

You may have answered this already, but I recently noticed that in England (and perhaps all of Europe), they use even numbered frequencies on the FM band (i.e. 95.8, 96.4, 98.8 etc.).  Why do we only use odd numbered FM frequencies in North America? - Anonymous

Anon:  The FM frequency is divided into a few ways throughout the world.  While some areas use even or odd numbered decimals, some areas use both.  In the United States, the FCC chose to use odd decimal points rather than even numbers.  It's no big deal.  It just depends on how the frequency is allocated.  For a good summary by the FCC, click here.

FM News

We're looking to add afternoon newscasts on a music intensive 50K Oldies radio station. Trouble is, we're not sure what the ‘standard' type of formatics—structure, length, etc.—consists of as a norm and placement in the afternoon drive. Can you give advice? - Anonymous

Anon: I assume that you have not checked with your audience to find out that they do want afternoon newscasts, the type of news they want, and how often it should be presented. Am I correct?

There are no "standard" formatic approaches for news or anything else. These approaches are developed from the style of the radio station, what the audience wants, and the creativity and intelligence of the programming staff.

But that still doesn't answer your question. If you can't conduct your own research, then maybe this will help. In the past few thousand studies I have conducted, audiences for music-intensive radio stations do want news and information—usually only the highlights of local and national news. In addition, the listeners usually expect news to be presented on the hour, and sometimes on the half-hour.

FM Talk

Is there an advantage of having an FM talk station broadcasting in stereo? We currently have an AM talk and are in the process of acquiring an FM signal. The FM will also be a talk format. Speech is in mono, of course, but is it worth the cost of rewiring the station and production room just to have our bumper music and spots in stereo. Also, during our live call in shows what about separating the channels with the host on both speakers and maybe one guest on the right speaker and the other on the left, or would this be annoying to the listener? How many of the FM talk stations out there broadcast in stereo and is there a direct impact in the ratings one way or the other? - Scott

Scott: If you read this column regularly, I think you may know what I'm going to say . . .

I have already asked these questions in research studies of my own. The only thing I can say is that stereo wasn't a big deal in the markets I studied. However, this doesn't mean it won't be in your market and you need to find out. Don't make the mistake of assuming that stereo is or is not important . . . find out for sure. You have already designed the questionnaire for your study, so ask the listeners.

Finally, I don't know how many FM talk stations broadcast in stereo. Maybe someone who is reading this knows the answer to your question and will write to me. If so, I'll pass it on to you via this column.

Focus Group Question

I have an annual budget for music tests and an occasional bigger project, like a perceptual, but I heard an idea that I'd like to run by you. You speak of ‘asking the listener' quite often, so do you think I would be able to get a quick report card on my station if I invited some listeners from our winners' database to a gathering at the station? Someone suggested giving them a tour, feeding them and asking them their likes/dislikes about my station & the competition just to get a feel for what they think - letting them know we do care about what they think. What's your opinion? - CM

CM: You are correct in saying that I advocate the approach of asking listeners. Now, on to the idea that you heard about . . . There is nothing wrong with the plan you suggest, but you need to consider a few things:

1. While it is important to gather opinions from P1s, keep in mind that these people do not represent the P2s, P3s, and all the other Ps. Research with P1s often becomes a "love fest" because they like everything about your radio station—otherwise they wouldn't be P1s. In other words, you'll get a lot of reasons why they love your radio station, but probably not many suggestions on how to improve things. And if you do get suggestions for improvement, they may not be the same suggestions that would come from less frequent listeners (P2s, etc.).

2. If you want to proceed with the idea, you might consider inviting the other "Ps." These people will provide you with more information about what you can do to get them to listen more often to your radio station. These people are more open to being "sold" on your radio station. You already have the P1s, so try to get more by inviting the other Ps.

3. If you want to proceed with the idea, figure out your total costs for recruiting, food, and everything else. When you do that, ask yourself, "What is my return on investment? Is the amount of money worth it to cater to a relatively small group of people, or could I use this money more efficiently?" For example, if you're trying to get people to "care about you" as you suggest, how many "telemarketing" phone calls could you make to people in your market that would invite them to listen to your radio station? In other words, are you using your research budget in the most efficient way? That's your call.

By the way, if you want to proceed with this project, an alternative is to invite one group of P1s and another group of other Ps. This will allow you to get some indications about the similarities and differences in opinions between the two groups.

Focus Groups - Approach

What is your opinion about focus groups conducted via the computer or telephone? - ACD


ACD: While some people criticize focus groups, the fact is that the methodology continues to be one of the best research approaches for things like testing marketing, getting ideas for questionnaires, and gathering indications for more detailed research.


Although new technology is often a helpful thing, sometimes new technology (or a new use of older technology) is a gigantic step backward.


One important characteristic of the scientific method is control—control over the research situation, measurement instruments, and everything else. When focus groups are conducted via computer or telephone, where the respondents are physically located in several different places, the control over the project is lost. Respondents can be involved in all sorts of things while they are supposedly participating in the focus group.


There is always error in any type of research—sampling error, measurement error, and random error. When you give up control over the project, you are needlessly introducing additional error. And that doesn't make any sense.


My opinion of focus groups conducted via the computer or telephone? One word: Ick.

Focus Groups - Control

I accidentally found your column the other day when I was roaming around on All Access. It's great and you have taught me a lot! I hope you can help me. I'm just getting involved in moderating focus groups and I'm trying to learn as much as I can about what works and what doesn't work. Would it be OK with you if I asked a bunch of questions? For example, in some focus groups there is a person who tries to dominate the discussion. The person tries to answer everything and always cuts other people off. What is the best way to control this type of person? – WK

WK: I'm glad you found the column and thanks for the comment. Would it be OK if you ask a "bunch" of questions? Hmmm. OK. I'll try to give you a bunch of answers.

As you have probably discovered, a moderator can make or break a focus group. You must remain objective at all times, ask questions, listen to the answers and ask follow-up questions, and control the group.

Now, about the talkative person. There are three ways to handle this situation:

  1. Call on people to answer your questions. Don't run the group as an open forum where anyone can speak at any time. If you call on others in the group before the talkative person, you will get input from everyone. This same approach works with a person who is shy and doesn't volunteer answers.  You don't need to come across as a dictator with this approach. Make it casual and the people will follow along. You can merely say, "Jerry, do you participate in contests on radio stations?" Then keep going around the table until you get to the talkative person (or the shy person).

  2. If the person is a pain in the neck and immediately tries to answer every question, just cut him/her off and say something like, "Jim . . . hang in there, I need to get responses from the other too."

  3. In my introduction, I always tell the people that each of their opinions is important. If one person tries to dominate the group, I will say something like, "Jim, now I know you have an opinion here, but it's important that I hear from everyone. Let me find out what the other people think and then I'll get to you." You can do this in a polite way so that the person isn't offended. (Although if the person is a pain, get him/her out of the group.)

Focus Groups - Kicking Someone Out

In your answer to WK about focus groups, you said that you can "get someone out of" the group. Why would you kick someone out of the group and how do you do that? – Anonymous

Anon: There are many reasons why you may want to eliminate a respondent from a focus group. However, the most frequent reason is that a person doesn't qualify for the group. Although each respondent must pass through a screener to qualify, it's always possible to run into a person who lied to get in (Why? Who knows?) or maybe the person misunderstood the questions and gave the wrong answers. Again, who knows why people answer questions the way they do.

A moderator usually finds out if a person doesn't qualify during the introduction to the group. The respondents are asked to state their name, what they do for a living, and which radio stations (if it's a radio group) they listen to during a typical week. Let's say that you're doing a focus group for Country music and find out in the introduction that one of the respondents never listens to Country music. Do you leave that person in the group? This is the moderator's call. Maybe the person used to listen to Country music. The moderator needs to find out quickly and then make a decision.

So . . . let's say the moderator decides to get rid of the person. Now what? Well, I have found that the best way to eject a person is to do it very politely and without making a big deal out of it. But the plan to eject someone must be set up before the group begins.

Before a focus group begins, I always arrange with the focus facility representative and the client how I will handle kicking someone out of the group.

I tell the client that if a person clearly does not belong in the room, I will say (in the group) something like, "The reason I asked you to introduce yourselves is to help me find out how similar or different you are in reference to your radio listening. This helps me figure out what types of questions to ask. Except for Jim, all of you said that you listen to Country music radio stations. (Talking to Jim now . . .) That's OK, and that's why I ask you to introduce yourselves. In your case, Jim, since you said you don't listen to Country music, this discussion may bore you to death (I'm giving the respondent one more chance to fess up to listening to Country music). We plan for this type of thing, and my partner Steve (I always tell the respondents that I have a partner behind the mirror who is watching) would like to ask you other types of questions. So . . . please take your belongings and Steve will ask you other questions outside."

I tell the clients that as soon as they hear this type of discussion, they should notify the focus facility rep that someone is coming out of the room.

I tell the focus facility rep (before the group begins) about this process. These people are accustomed to these things and know what to do. When the ejected person emerges from the room, the person is told something like "Steve decided that is wasn't necessary to ask you additional questions and we'd like to thank you for coming here tonight." (The focus rep always does this in a professional way and the respondent never feels badly about being ejected from the group.) The person is paid and sent home.

That's the plan. When the clients behind the mirror hear me say (at any time during the group) something like, "My partner Steve (or whatever name I use) has a few special questions for you," they know to contact the focus rep because I'm kicking the respondent out of the group.

There are many other reasons why you may want to eject someone. I have conducted about 3,000 focus groups in my career and ejected people who were: (1) drunk or on some type of drug; (2) overly argumentative to the point of affecting the other respondents; (3) sick; (4) having strong and frequent labor pains; (5) making inflammatory racial comments; (6) using extremely obscene language that was affecting the other respondents; (7) falling asleep; (8) obviously too young or too old for the group; and (9) too knowledgeable about the subject indicating that he/she may work in the industry.

The goal is to make the ejection process very commonplace, not a Hollywood production. This is possible if you plan ahead with the clients and the focus facility rep.

Finally, I make all attempts to "save" a respondent. I may go back into the viewing room to ask the clients for a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down." I may ask the respondent to step out into the hall with me and ask him/her a few questions to make sure that my decision was correct. If everything fails, the ax falls.

Focus Groups - Mix of Respondents

Is it a good idea to mix males and females in radio focus groups? - Anonymous


Anon:  Although radio focus groups usually don't involve discussions about gender-specific personally sensitive topics, I have found that separating men and women works best.  Years ago when I started moderating focus groups and did include both men and women in the same group, I often noticed that men would look at the women before they made a comment (and vice versa).  It was clear that respondents were thinking about what they were about to say so they wouldn't (potentially) offend the opposite sex.


I don't have scientific evidence to backup my claim, but I believe in controlling as many variables as possible in research, and splitting men and women eliminates a potential confounding variable.  If the variable isn't there, then there is no reason to consider its influence.

Focus Groups - Professionally Moderated

When programming a radio station, how effective are professionally facilitated focus groups?  What role do they play?  What are the strengths & weaknesses?  Could one-on-one interviews be just as effective (or even more effective) as focus groups if they are handled correctly? - Troy


Troy:  Before I get to your question, allow me to step back a bit and explain a few things about research.  I think this is necessary so we’re “on the same page.”


There are two broad categories of research: quantitative and qualitative.  Historically, quantitative research (telephone studies, music tests, etc.) was associated with large samples and qualitative research (focus groups, one-on-one interviews, etc.) was associated with small samples.  Sample size, therefore, became the defining factor about the validity (testing what you think you’re testing) and reliability (results are consistent over several studies or over time) of the research approaches.  Quantitative research, with its larger sample sizes, has been considered more valid and reliable than focus groups.  (And that’s true.)


The problem with this single classification procedure (sample size only) is that it’s possible to conduct focus groups or one-on-one interviews with hundreds of respondents.  This approach would be expensive, but it’s possible.  What does that mean?  It means that the sample size argument is eliminated and the two approaches are virtually the same when it comes to validity and reliability.


So now what?  Well, if you look closely at the quantitative and qualitative research, if the sample sizes are the same, the difference has nothing to do with sample size.  The difference relates to how questions are asked.  In quantitative research, the questionnaire (measurement instrument) is static in that all respondents are asked the same questions.  In qualitative research, the questioning is flexible and can be changed as the discussion progresses—follow up questions can be asked, or the questioning can be taken to a completely different topic.


Got it?  If the sample sizes of the two approaches are the same, the difference between quantitative and qualitative research relates to the types of questions asked.  If all the rules of scientific research are followed in both approaches, then the validity and reliability will be the same.  (I’ll get to your professionally moderated question in a moment.)


OK, you asked how effective professionally facilitated (moderated) focus groups are in programming a radio station.  The basic answer is that focus groups are very important in programming a radio station, but focus groups must be used correctly.


If you conduct only a few focus groups or one-on-one interviews (N = 40 or so), then you should use the results only as indications of what your listeners may or may not think.  In most cases, qualitative research is used to gather preliminary indications about a topic or to gather questions that will be included in a larger sample quantitative study.  Unless the sample size is large, the results from qualitative research should only be used as a preliminary step in the research process.


However, if your qualitative research includes a sample of about 100 respondents, then you can use the information for decision making if you’re willing to accept the sampling error associated with this sample size (about ±9.8% at the 95% confidence level).


You also ask if one-on-one interviews can be as effective, or more effective, as focus groups if they are handled correctly.  The answer is “yes” if you’re willing to conduct (or sit through) all the interviews one at a time.  I call one-on-one interviews as “research for masochists.”  I have both conducted and watched one-on-one interviews and they are time consuming, boring, inefficient, and they cost too much money.  A professional moderator can get the same information from focus groups in about one-tenth the time.


There may be a situation or two where one-on-one interviews are important, but I’m hard pressed to come up with an example.  If you like to waste time, then one-on-ones are the way to go.


Now to your question about professional moderators…Here is what I tell everyone when they ask this question:  Focus groups and one-on-one interviews look deceivingly simple to conduct.  The problem is that they aren’t.  Moderating interviews takes a lot of skill in reference to listening, keeping people on track, asking the correct follow-up questions, and much more.  But the biggest thing is that a professional moderator is objective—he or she is after facts and doesn’t get emotionally involved in the respondents’ answers.  Untrained moderators get emotionally involved in the situation and, therefore, stray from the topic, lead the respondents’ answers, ask the wrong questions, and usually waste a lot of time.


I have seen many untrained GMs, PDs, and other people at radio stations conduct focus groups and I have never seen one who did an adequate job.  The folks are not objective and it glaringly shows in their questions and responses/demeanor toward the respondents.  I would never suggest using an untrained person for any type of research—quantitative or qualitative.


One more thing…I know of several radio stations that use small groups of listeners (an advisory board, people who work at the radio station, or people from a radio station database of some type) as respondents in their research (perceptual studies, focus groups, music tests, etc.).  This is wrong. 


The procedure is wrong for several reasons: (1) The samples are usually too small, which means that sampling error is huge; (2) The respondents are not randomly selected and, therefore, they probably do not reflect the attitudes and perceptions of the general audience; (3) The research is often conducted or overseen by a station employee and it not objective; and (4) The approach violates virtually all of the tenets (rules) of scientific research.


Regardless of the type of research used, the intent is the same: To find out what the listeners want.  To be successful, the research methods must follow the rules of scientific research.  If you don’t follow the rules, then the research is essentially a waste of time.  Qualitative research, if used correctly, is a valid and reliable scientific research approach.  However, it is the most abused research method and the reason why so many radio stations don’t perform at their capacity—the research information is, for lack of a better term, bogus.

Focus Group Respondents

We asked our consultant if he would moderate a few focus groups for our radio station, and he said that focus groups aren’t a good research methodology because of the potential influence of one or two respondents on the other members of the group; that a dominant respondent can negatively affect the comments made in the group.  Can you comment on that?  I thought focus groups were a good approach to use? - Anonymous


Anon:  Focus groups are a good research methodology when used correctly.  My experience shows that people who criticize focus groups because of the potential influence of certain respondents do not have enough experience moderating focus groups to deal with the range of respondents who participate in the groups.


A professional moderator never has problems with difficult respondents.  A professional moderator can identify almost immediately a “problem” respondent and can solve the problem in a matter of minutes.  If a moderator has problems with respondents, the moderator should consider another occupation.  In your case, find someone who knows how to moderate focus groups.

Focus Groups - Someone Behind the Mirror

I have another focus group question. You mentioned briefly in your last answer that you tell the respondents that there is someone watching behind the mirror in the focus group room. I didn't think the moderator was supposed to do that? Why do you do it? - Anonymous

Anon: I have another focus group answer.  When I first started moderating focus groups in the early 1970s, I didn't tell the respondents that there were people behind the mirror watching the group. However, it wasn't long before I noticed that the mirror was a major problem for most respondents. Think about it for a moment . . . as a respondent, you walk into a focus group room and notice that one of the four walls is a mirror from floor to ceiling (usually). Now, making the assumption that most respondents immediately eliminate the thought that the room is for some strange S & M experiments, they figure out that it has something to do with research.

Would you think that a full-wall mirror was unique? I think so, and so do respondents.

I learned that respondents are more comfortable if I tell them the truth (within limits) about everything that happens in the group. This puts them at ease and they are more willing to talk about the questions I ask them.

I always say that there is a colleague behind the mirror who is watching the group and taking notes so that I can concentrate on what is going on. In fact, after the respondents wave to and say "hi" to my "colleague," they forget about the mirror.

Focus or Phone

Which is most effective to collect information about our listeners, focus groups or a telephone study? By the way, are you still doing these things? - KL


KL: Both methods are effective. It depends on the goal of your research. Focus groups are usually used to gather preliminary information that will be verified in a larger sample project; telephone studies are usually used to gather a lot of information from a large sample in a wide geographic area.


Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Determine what your goals are, what type of information you want to collect, and what you plan to do with the information. Remember that neither of these research approaches proves or disproves anything. The information provides indications of what exists to help you make decisions. Don't allow the research to make decisions for you.


And yes, I'm still doing "these things." Research is my full-time job.


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