PRC planning to move away from face-to-face interviews in line with global trends and technological innovations

Fieldwork for the most recent Publisher Audience Measurement Survey (PAMS) began in August 2019 and ended in early December, before the coronavirus changed everything, and particularly, the ability of researchers to conduct face-to-face (F2F) interviews.

While the PRC was planning to move away from F2F interviews as a result of new technological innovations, Nielsen – research partner for the PRC – collected the data for the research, and in what is another first for PAMS2019, used a Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) system. Interviewers used a tablet with a Bluetooth enabled keyboard.

“The tablets used by Nielsen locked onto a specific geo-location, which allowed for detailed quality control,” explains CEO of the PRC, Josephine Buys. “The tablet captured the location of the interview to ensure that the original random probability sample design was maintained. No other JIC conducted study has this level of quality control.”

The questionnaire was programmed into seven languages, with the respondent choosing the language they wished to be interviewed in. The available languages were English, Afrikaans, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Xhosa and Zulu.

Specific addresses and GPS co-ordinates, at which the interviews were conducted, were preselected for metros and the large urban areas. These addresses were selected from the Nielsen GeoFrame. For the smaller urban areas and for rural areas, interviewers were given GPS co-ordinates. In another first, all 233 municipalities in South Africa were sampled.

“Nielsen applied real-time interviewer diagnostics, utilising the GPS location tracking capability on the tablet, to validate that the interviews were conducted in the correct location.” says Terry Murphy, managing director of Nielsen Media.

Nielsen also used a Computer Assisted Self Interviewing (CASI) method for the up-front past 12-month reading question. The tablet was handed to respondents, who then selected the publications they had read or paged through in the past 12 months on their own. This reduced pressure on the respondent to have read publications and on the halo effect to impress the interviewer.

Before the start of fieldwork, Nielsen conducted personal briefings with supervisors and interviewers in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

“Given the increasing geographical challenges of F2F surveys in the South African context, PRC have been collaborating with Nielsen to future proof research methodologies and this hybrid example was just a first step in that direction.” says Buys.

“In the post Covid-19 world, F2F research is likely to ultimately become extinct. Many regions around the world already conduct audience measurement services as online first, and in fact in some instances such as Finland, they are online only. In line with these technological advances worldwide, PRC is in pole position to champion the evolution of research in South Africa as more and more of our citizens go online.”

The use of the latest technology to assist in conducting interviews, and assuring the quality of the research, is one more way the PRC has met its commitment to sharing meaningful and consistent data that is tech-enabled, independently audited and typifies global best practice.