Media Research Firm Readex Creates A Deep-Dive Interviewing Service

Mar 27, 2024

Readex Research, the indispensable market-data pioneer, has served the media industry with roots dating back to 1945. Its products have evolved over the decades, catering to the needs of first the print-magazine industry and following that, it expanded more broadly to the digital-media space.

At its core, it empirically measures audience engagement and advertising effectiveness. It also produces custom research on a wide variety of topics.

One fact of empirical research is that it isn’t always the best way to dig deeper and glean opinions and tease out unstated facts. Yes, there are often open-ended questions in surveys, but responses are brief and sporadic.

So in that context Readex announced a new product earlier this year that seeks to move beyond the empirical to the anecdotal. It’s called IDI of America, In-Depth Interviewing.

The product is designed as a new way to hear from audiences and gather deeper insights into behaviors, beliefs, feelings and motivations, creating more clarity and understanding, according to the Readex website.

It’s done using video conferencing and one-on-one interviews. Interviewers typically take 20-to-30 minutes, utilizing a discussion guide to probe deeply into key issues and themes.

Jack Semler.

Then Readex analyzes the responses and issues a final report. We recently caught up with Readex President Jack Semler to dig a little deeper ourselves. Here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Fox Tales: What was the impetus for creating IDI? Did you perceive this as a gap in Readex’s services?

Jack Semler: The impetus actually came from conversation with customers and prospects. The actual “ah ha” moment was when a customer looked at their study results, and said, “You know, we really don’t understand why some of the answers to the survey turned out the way they did. We need to dig deeper.” Plus, we have had numerous conversations with customers before launching a survey who don’t have a full grasp of all the issues to explore. So, putting these experiences together, it led us to consider in-depth interviewing  as a means to, indeed, dig deeper and create more insights. We also have staff members who have experience with qualitative research design and implementation. Their views were instrumental in giving us the energy to dive in and give this a shot.

It’s also fair to say that offering a brand new methodology is very attractive. As we all know, any business needs to constantly be looking at new, better and different ways to attract customers or to keep current customers from going elsewhere. After putting everything on the table, we thought launching the service would be the right call.

Fox Tales: It sounds like IDI is something akin to a focus group. Is that about right? 

Semler: Yes, in-depth interviewing is in the qualitative family. The difference is that instead of having 10 or 12 people in the same room at the same time, you are having one-on-one conversations. Obviously, it’s a very different experience for both the participants and the moderator.

Fox Tales: In what kinds of scenarios might it be most useful?

Semler: There are many opportunities to put IDI to work. Without going into every scenario, we see these as the most relevant for some of the markets Readex now serves. First, product development. IDI is a method that permits collection of data where participants can express their thoughts, ideas and feelings, in their own words. You can really dig deep and help discover whether something you might want to do is a good idea or not. Second, IDI can be put to work before or after quantitative research to inform design of surveys or to explore more fully what was learned in a survey.

Beyond these two scenarios, there are applications for content research, employee studies, customer research, studies of social issues and more.

Fox Tales: As we learned at the BIMS Innovation Panel, evaluating and greenlighting a project is a complicated process. Could IDI be used to streamline that process? 

Semler: The method could be used as a streamlining agent, but greenlighting a project based on qualitative work alone should be done with caution. This takes us to the difference between qualitative and quantitative. Like other qualitative methods, IDI is designed to help generate ideas and dig deep into feelings and opinions, but what you learn may not be representative of your market as a whole. On the other hand, that’s the purpose of qualitative, to get answers that will aid in making decisions. If a project is not financially intensive and needs to launched quickly, I could see IDI helping to move things along. If otherwise, caution would be advised if relying solely on IDI work.

Fox Tales: Why did you choose a distinct brand—IDI of America?

Semler: The distinct brand rises from the fact that there is not a singular brand that identifies only with in-depth interviewing work. It’s a very fragmented business. And when you ask the question, “Who do you think of when you think about in-depth interviewing?” nothing immediate comes to mind. So that’s why I latched on to the name and URL. If this takes hold and turns into a nice business opportunity, then having this brand will permit us to spin it off as a separate and distinct entity down the road.

Fox Tales: Did you use an IDI-type approach to evaluate the need for IDI?

Semler: Well, to be honest, and for better or worse, this was driven exclusively by conversation with customers and prospects. There’s also some intuition involved, that admittedly may or may not be correct. This said, the cost of entry is minimal, we have experienced staff to run the business, and so it was pretty much a “no guts, no glory” decision!