The PHONOTEST - a new dimension in broadcasting research

The PHONOTEST is an instrument for qualitative radio- and broadcasting research, and was developed on behalf of the ORF, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, in a joint cooperation of the Viennese companies Integral, an opinion- and market research venture, and Ashton & Aschenfeld Ges.m.b.H.

Implemented on the basis of international studies in this 'field', a custom-tailored research package was designed that facilitates quick, efficient and cost-effective music title research and various other forms of representative audio-acceptance surveys including moderator tests, news and advertisement spots research.

The core of the PHONOTEST is to test short audio samples which have been digitalized into a computer and replay these directly via computer/telephone link for a highest degree of transmission quality. These samples are referred to as 'hooks'.

Popular music titles can be tested as 'hooks' with 15 to 30 second extracts, and the level of acceptance determined is classified as the 'burn-out' factor.

The music segments are sampled from a DAT or Compact Cassette into the computer and the higher and lower audio frequencies are adjusted and filtered so that optimum sound is achieved during telephone transmission. Each 'hook' is stored on the central PC file server and is available for telephone interviewing in a network of computer-assisted interviewing stations (CATI).

The sound is fed directly into a customized telephone with a potentiometer offering a scale of normed volume levels, circumventing the traditional 'microphone sample and replay' approach with its loss of audio information. This technology dynamically balances phasing effects which occur in over-land transmission and private exchange boxes, and also allows adopts the signal for elderly interviewees.

In Vienna, assignments from the ORF are divided into sets of 18 music titles, and the sample size is on the base of 100 representative persons from such specific target groups as frequent 3 listeners, younger age groups, or the population at large. The amount of 18 music titles was conceived as a threshold in relationship to the duration of an interview. 'Hooks' can be replayed at random, provided the CATI-system offers this feature.

The PHONOTEST has been conducted since the beginning of '92 and over 500 titles have been tested. The questions that are posed for each title facilitate the following measurements which are presented as a 'title portrait':

The 'PI' (PHONOTEST - Index)
is the common preference value of a title and is based on the standard 0-10 point acceptance scale.
'Target age'
is the average age of the target group on the basis of respondents who assigned a PI between 7 and 10. This offers an immediate insight into the average age of the listeners who responded in favour of the respective music title.
The 'burn' factor
represents the current popularity of a title, and the respondent is asked to state whether the title should be played 'more often', 'is played often enough', 'more seldom' or 'not at all'. Three percentages are calculated (+ / = / -), with the last percentage (-) representing the 'burn-out'. Higher 'burn-out' values indicate titles which are rated poorly. A 'burn-out-motive' can be determined to indicate whether a title was played too frequently or was rated poorly for other reasons.
The 'Channel/program association'
determines which channel and program a title is associated with. This permits a non-verbal music image of the respective radio channels.
In a later, detailed overview, the results of the PHONOTEST are presented in cross-count tables with breaks for age, education, channel preference (regular 1, 2 listener, etc.), listening habits (times when radio is heard) and other various demographic attributes.

On request, the results of the music title tests could be stored in a database to establish cross-references between various titles, genres, channels and target groups. This database is not included in the PHONOTEST package!

As mentioned earlier, the PHONOTEST is also well-suited for other areas of broadcasting- and media research including the research of:

PHONOTEST is a proven, qualitative research instrument for the broadcasting media and can be utilized now. PHONOTEST is a registered product of INTEGRAL.

Technical requirements for the PHONOTEST:

The PHONOTEST was conceived as an extension of existing CATI-systems in a local- area network (LAN) of MS-DOS (IBM PC compatible) PCs. The CATI-workstations must be a minimum 286 PCs with 640KB system memory. 386 PCs are recommended.

20 to 25 seconds per 'hook' require appr. 500 KB disk space, and sufficient storage must be allocated on the file server for 'hooks' being tested (50 - 100 MB).

The majority of CATI-systems display text in 'text-modus' and recieve input from the keyboard. This allows the PHONOTEST software to be incorporated into the underlying CATI-system as an extension of its functionality without adjustments by utilizing an advanced DOS programming technique of memory-resident programming. CATI-systems under Microsoft Windows would require additional fine-tuning.

The PHONOTEST operates independently of the underlying network operating system and runs on Novell Netware, Microsoft LAN Manger and other common LANs.

Components of the PHONOTEST workstation PCs:

An illustration:

This illustration is based on PHONOTESTs we have conducted for the ORF and is an example of its usage in day-to-day operations.

The contractor, a broadcasting corporation, compiles a list of 'hooks' to be tested, and records these on DAT or Compact Cassette. We prefer DAT as a more reliabe, higher- quality and 'handier' media. The 'hooks' are recorded according to a defined scheme to allow for the automatic cutting. An example follows:

  1. Spoken comment ("Title one")
  2. Pause (3 seconds)
  3. Hook (min. 15 seconds)
  4. Pause (5 seconds)
On the PC connected to the DAT- or Cassetterecorder via a sound adapter, the program HOOKCUT digitalizes the sound contents of the tape onto the PC hard disk.

The second step is also conducted with HOOKCUT, which transforms the 'hooks' and stores each one in a separate file. The minimum duration of a 'hook' and the minimum duration of a pause are specified, and the spoken comments are automatically recognized and removed. HOOKCUT adjusts and filters higher and lower audio frequencies so that an optimum sound is achieved during telephone transmission. The 'hook' is stored as a separate file and ready 'for the field'. A report lists the number of 'hooks' and total times for later administration.

The final step is to enter the respective 'Hook xx' entry into the appropriate position of the questionnaire with the CATI-system. This token enables the resident HOOKPLAY software to replay the respective 'hooks' when the interviewer presses a key combination during the interview (Hot-Key in PC-jargon).

If you need further Information on PHONOTEST, please send mail to stef@cybercafe.co.at

Ashton & Aschenfeld Ges.m.b.H. PHONOTEST Page / office@cybercafe.co.at