Don't count out the paper diary yet!

Date of publication: June 15, 1992

Abstract:

The self completed television viewing diary continues to be an important instrument for audience measurement in Canada and the U.S. The diary collects information on a 15 minute basis, assuming that only one channel is watched for all or most of the period. With increasing channel choice and the universality of remote controls this assumption is being challenged. Viewers change channels so frequently, it is alleged, that they cannot possibly be expected to record what they view. This paper addresses the allegation by analysing the extent and nature of actual channel changing behaviour. It uses data from a data base of channel changes, compiled from the BBM-Videoway television meter project in Toronto in Fall 1990. It shows that the extent and influence of "zapping" or "grazing" has been greatly exaggerated. Contrary to conventional wisdom, most sets stay tuned to one channel during a quarter hour period. Those tuned to more than one, stay with a principal channel during the great majority of the quarter hour, sampling another channel or two for just short periods of time. For most viewers there does appear to be one identifiable channel tuned for most of the quarter hour, as assumed by the paper diary. This is shown to be the case during different day parts and for different types of programming

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