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Peanuts and Monkeys - the argument for high quality online research

By Ben Marks, Managing Director, OpinionPanel

Ben Marks
Ben Marks

Ben is YouthSight's founder and CEO. He's a well-renowned personality in the market research industry and has great connections with the MRS and HEPI.

By Ben Marks, Managing Director, OpinionPanel


Online access panels are the workhorse fieldwork mode for the market research industry.  They have developed and improved in many ways in the last few years.  But frank discussion around issues of incentivisation and panellist engagement is seldom attempted.

My paper, entitled Peanuts and Monkeys, presented at the ASC's September 2011 conference, examines the unstated assumptions and consequences associated with prevalent practices in the industry: the failure to recognise the extrinsic motivations for taking most online surveys, the potentially disingenuous argument that poor incentivisation is necessary to prevent the professionalization of panellists, the tendency to sell research on price rather than quality of sample and the failure to stand up to clients on the issue of poorly designed questionnaires.

Based on this analysis, the paper warns that current practices may be unsustainable, as the commoditization of access panels tarnishes market research’s reputation for high quality primary data collections, potentially undermining the whole research industry. In light of this prediction, the paper explores possible solutions, offering a model based on improved communication, recruitment, engagement and incentivisation that has the potential to position the online panel industry as a bedrock mode of recruitment for a wide range of methods and take back share from other, less reliable fieldwork modes.


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