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"Is it legal?" is not enough

Pleeezz!

Today’s update from Research-live.com has this headline: Online trackers not optimised for mobile could 'compromise data quality.' It goes on to explain:

GMI, which manages more than 1,000 tracking studies, claims that online trackers that haven’t been optimised for mobile platforms may exclude this growing audience, which could lead to a drop in data quality, reduced feasibility and the possibility of missing whole sections of the required population from research.

Let me be clear. I don’t disagree that online surveys need to be optimized for mobile and that the numbers of unintentional mobile respondents (aka UMRs) is large and growing. But a warning from an online panel company that scaring away UMRs may be leading to a drop in data quality because of “the possibility of missing whole sections of the required population from research” just drips with irony.

Let’s start with the fact that online research, at least in the US, by definition is excluding the roughly 20% of the population that is not online. Research using an online panel of, say, two million active members is excluding about 99% of the adult population. As the industry has moved more and more to dynamic sourcing it’s hard now to know how big the pool of prospective online respondents is, but it’s a safe bet that that the vast majority of US adults are missing, and not at random.

Surely, if we have figured out a way to deal with the massive coverage error inherent in the online panel model, we can handle the mobile problem.

I suspect that the real issue here is feasibility, not data quality. Just as the now near-universal use of routers is about inventory management rather than improved representativeness. I wish that online panel companies would spend more time trying to deal with real data quality issues like poor coverage and inadequate sampling methods, but that’s only going to happen if their customers start demanding it.

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