One of the more amusing things about getting press releases from TV networks is how they love to take pot shots at each other. Of all the countries Throng operates in, the Canadian networks seem to be the most ruthless. However, every now and then we get entertained by the local networks as they try to outdo each other as they talk themselves up.
Today’s example started at 4:52pm with TV3 trumpeting the considerable ratings growth in November of 3 News, Campbell Live and Sunrise. The press release is riddled with double negatives and even a hilarious triple negative: “fallen by negative -3.3%”.
Not to be outdone, TVNZ slapped together a response and released their own “go us!” 42 minutes later, complete with typos “Cambell Live” and “ONE news”.
So how do we make sense of the flurry of statistics? One can almost always find a figure to support a cause and the more different measures quoted, the murkier the picture becomes. These biased self portrait press releases are no exception. We’re left just as clueless about the state of things as we were prior to reading them. TVNZ compares their ratings to last year while TV3 compares to last month. TVNZ uses 25-54 demographic while TV3 quotes 18-49. TVNZ quotes national figures while TV3 includes regional ones. There’s audience share, average ratings and audience numbers. Percentage changes and percentage increases. Comparing one point in time with another rather than long term trends. Somewhere lurking behind the scenes is statistical jargon such as margins of error, measurement bias and seasonal fluctuations conviently not taken into account.
We’re not going to try and attempt to unravel their mess of numbers but what is obvious is that November 2008 was a generous gift month to all in the news industry thanks to the elections in the United States and here in New Zealand.
Oh, and we love Daniel M’s response to TV3′s release: “Our emphasis on news and information is starting to pay off” – Damn! 3 News wasn’t focusing on news and information before!?