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Better, Cheaper, Faster

By Mel Duvall Print this article Print

Their market research system mines the collective thoughts of netizens. But can the Rochester, NY company accurately interpret its polls to represent the world at large?

: Behind Harris Interactive's Internet Push">
Better, Cheaper, Faster: Behind Harris Interactive's Internet Push

Survey firms like Harris Interactive charge clients a fee per interview, which varies depending on the length of the survey and the "incidence rate"—that is, the degree of difficulty in reaching the target audience. A general interest survey, on a topic such as President Bush's approval rating, would have a high-incidence rate, because most people contacted would be able to answer the questions. A more specific survey, perhaps requiring women with diabetes, between the ages of 40 and 50, would have a "low-incidence" rate.

Here are cost comparisons for performing surveys of 1,000 people by phone and by the Internet for a very specific survey, or one with a low-incidence rate. Each method has a response rate of 25%.

  Harris Phone Icon Harris Internet Icon
WHAT HARRIS CHARGES $30,000 $10,000
Finding and interviewing respondents $10,500*
*Based on 1,000 15-minute telephone interviews and involving about 300 call-center hours
Analysis and advice on survey questions/responses $9,000 $3,000
HARRIS' PROFIT MARGIN 35% ($10,500) 60%($6,000)
TIME FROM START TO FINISH Up to six weeks From two to seven days
Versatility/Value Costs for telephone interviews rise proportionately to the number of people polled. The culprit: telephone interviewers' salaries. To reach 1,000 respondents, interviewers need to call about 4,000 people for a response rate of 25%. There is very little difference in cost for Harris to interview 100, 1,000 or 10,000 people. Internet surveys can include pictures, graphics, advertising copy and other visual materials, as well as sound. Surveys can be created in multiple languages, delivered around the globe and administered seven days a week, 24-hours a day.
SOURCE: Harris Interactive

This article was originally published on 2003-02-01
Contributing Editor
Mel Duvall is a veteran business and technology journalist, having written for a variety of daily newspapers and magazines for 17 years. Most recently he was the Business Commerce Editor for Interactive Week, and previously served as a senior business writer for The Financial Post.

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