Exploring Mobile Qualitative Research : Go Figure Mobile qualitative synthesizes feedback from voicemails, texts, smartphone video and digital pictures all in one place. Can it help NPR better understand the impact of technology changes?
NPR logo Exploring Mobile Qualitative Research

Exploring Mobile Qualitative Research

If I took the call of every vendor that wanted to speak with me, I would not get any work done, but I made time last week to hear about mobile qualitative research.

NPR is interested in understanding how media behavior changes as a new media platform is introduced into a person's life. Of course some changes are long term and nuanced, but others happen nearly immediately. Once these changes become entrenched, we almost forget that we behaved any differently in the past — even those of us who grew up in an era of televisions with only three networks.

We've struggled to develop a method to understand the behaviors generated by these changes and the fleeting thoughts about them, right as they are happening. Mobile qualitative seems to offer possibilities to reach into those situations and create learning opportunities.

My first question: what is mobile qualitative? Well in the briefing I received from Rosalia Barnes, it is a method that synthesizes feedback from voicemails, texts, smartphone video and digital pictures all in one place. The moderator may probe periodically during the course of the engagement.

Given that listening to NPR and public radio content can happen anywhere and any time, this method opens up a world of opportunity with minimal researcher interaction effects. I would never ask a respondent to text while driving, but once she's parked, I would love to know more about the in-car experience. Did she hook up any new devices to hear a station? Did she listen to a station located outside of her immediate area? What would she have listened to if she didn't have that device?

Clearly we do not want to limit our research to those populations who have the latest mobile technology, but in some cases, when we're attempting to examine the bleeding edge of technology, this technique may be appropriate. And in the best case, we will uncover behaviors that allow us to provide an even better listener experience.

Lori Kaplan is the Director of Audience Insight & Research