The results in the recently released Zimbabwe All Media & Products Survey (ZAMPS) are strange. The internet part at least. Last month, when the report came out, our opinion, after reading about it in the Herald, was that the internet data just didn’t make sense. To be fair on ZAMPS, this was just the Herald’s own interpretation of the data. After going through the ZAMPS report ourselves, however, we still find that most of the data remains quite strange.
Like last year, the release of the survey results had some media houses questioning the integrity of the results and others (like the Herald) celebrating the integrity and taking full advantage with story headlines declaring “the Herald most complete, balanced newspaper”. The Research Bureau International (RBI) itself, the organisation behind the survey, defended the integrity of its findings, and about the internet data explained:
please note ZAMPS measures internet penetration and not how many times an individual visits a site as done by Google Analytics.
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There is the problem.
ZAMPS’ stated objective for the survey is:
to provide comprehensive information to the marketers on the audience for all media, including all the radio stations, TV channels, newspapers and the Internet etc..
Measuring internet penetration and usage through a questionnaire is just not effective. Internet penetration is generally understood to be the percentage of the total population of a given country or region that uses the Internet. While finding this number is not a stroll in the park, instead of asking users in a survey, a good start would be to ask the providers of internet services. They sign users up for the service. They surely can provide the data, or at least they can find out!
The internet makes the “Readership vs Circulation” argument that the RBI and AMH have been having irrelevant. Except for the purposes of determining specific demographic data, the RBI doesn’t need go out into the field to gather data about the readership online. Everything is recorded already, and the RBI just needs to develop ways to access this data from the service provider and publishers.
From the number of visits publishers get to the unique & return visitors, the number of pages viewed, the time of the visits, the time spent on the site, the clicks (or touches) made on adverts, the physical location of the ‘readers’, the types of devices used and, in the case of Facebook at least, the demographic profile of the users. The data doesn’t lie.
To meet their objective of providing comprehensive information to the marketers on the audience for all media, this is the information the RBI should be compiling about internet usage in Zimbabwe.