NPR logo Schadenfreude

Industry Research


Until I started working in public radio, I had never heard actual people use the word schadenfreude. I suppose the intellectuals in public radio just like to break out the big foreign words to exhibit their exposure world cultures. Or, perhaps as the definition hints they actually like to take pleasure in someone else's misfortune. As for me, I had a moment that caused me to feel as close to that definition as I ever want to feel.

About two years ago, NPR worked with Forrester Research to chart the projected adoption of digital audio in cars by listeners. When we received their analysis, our team was dubious of the results, which seemed to low ball the growth and contrary to the fast uptake of news devices we had already been seeing in the marketplace. Nonetheless, the Forrester analysts stood behind their findings and the report stood without revisions.

The keynote speaker at the Marketing Research Association annual conference was Forrester Research's Principal Analyst James McQuivey. His presentation is called "What It means To Be a Connected Human in The 21st Century." (You must submit your email to access the presentation.) During his talk he acknowledged that Forrester had been underestimating adoption of new technology for some time. They came to this realization after observing consumer purchases of the Kindle, iPad, and Kinect. Once they recognized their miscalculation, Forrester overhauled all of their consumer adoption curves. Ooooh, I felt that in the pit of my stomach. I admit to rejoicing in the knowledge that we had anticipated the future more accurately and the Forrester analysts had been stuck in the past.

This experience underscored for me that how much new technology is facilitating experiences in ways that we had never imagined. Previously analog experiences for even the simplest of things like eating are now transformed in the digital space (apps that calculates calories of a meal just by taking a picture of the food). These new developments compound together and create a larger thirst for more and more information and experiences at a faster clip than ever before.

Now back to being gracious.

Lori Kaplan is the Director of Audience Insight & Research.