Edward Tufte, former Yale University professor, design critic, and author declares PowerPoint an evil and wasteful "prankish conspiracy against evidence and thought." He asserts that PowerPoint reduces complex and nuanced issues into simplistic bullet-points and graphs. Read more about criticisms of PowerPoint here.
The ability to manipulate impressions using graphs and Powerpoint is no more obvious than in the graphs that accompany New Media’s attacks on radio. Before reading on, glance at the graph to the left and guess the authors’ opinion of the medium they are discussing.
The graph appears in Pew Research Center's 2006 Radio Audience Trends report. It shows the trend of radio’s reach as measured by Arbitron in its continuously measured markets. At first glance, reach seems to be dropping like a rock. It is only when one looks at the scale, does it become obvious that radio’s reach has declined only slightly. The scale goes from 95.4 to 94.0. In seven years, radio’s reach had declined little more than one percent. However, by choosing a very small range of values, the graph gives the impression that radio is dropping precipitously.
So how do the authors characterize this drop?
Seemingly overnight, satellite radio, Internet-only stations, podcasts, MP3s and iPods were changing the way America and the world listened. And all of it was quickly getting portable. A listener could carry around everything from an entire home CD collection to a radio show downloaded last night, and the new audio programmers were capturing and creating content limited only by the scope of imagination.
By traditional measures, the figures for the reach of radio continue to hold a stubborn line. According to data in the most recent edition (2004) of Arbitron's annual Radio Today report, 94% of people 12 years old and older still listen to traditional radio weekly. That is a drop of just one percentage point since 1998. Compared to some media, such as newspapers or network news, that is not only a remarkable percentage of the population but a remarkably consistent performance.
That number may soon be shifting....
By traditional measures? What does that mean? And radio is holding a stubborn line? Is that flattering? It is clear that the authors have an agenda. They are skeptical, but they don't have anything to refute the Arbitron numbers. Ultimately, the authors begrudgingly have to credit radio for holding its own against new challengers, but they can’t resist the temptation to suggest it is just a matter of time before radio succumbs.
While the report is several years old, it is interesting because it cites a Ball State University study that monitored media usage, similar to the 2009 study we reported on here. As with the 2009 study, the 2004 study found that participants under-reported their radio listening. While 83.2% of participants were observed listening to radio, only 72.7% reported listening. Participants listened an average of two hours per day. By comparison, the similar 2009 study found 79% reach and just slightly under two hours of listening.
In other words, using direct observational methods, researchers found that over the past five years, radio’s reach had declined from 83% to 79% and TSL has declined by perhaps 10 minutes a day. Considering all that radio has faced over the past few years, radio has performed remarkably well. But do you see that reported anywhere?
Pundits cannot believe that radio has survived the onslaught of New Media as well as it has, so they will continue to ignore research that suggests that radio has been minimally hurt. We will continue to see agenda laden fairy-tales like the Journalism.org piece. Don't believe them.