Title confusion: the impact of response error on competitive pairs

Researchers continually confront the issue of response error in all surveys they design. A respondent’s inability to answer a question accurately may arise for several reasons. Among them are poorly or ambiguously worded questions, cognitive difficulties in accessing the required information to respond correctly or insufficient stimuli to assist the respondent’s ability to answer accurately. Magazine researchers have faced one particular salient response error issue: title confusion. It has been argued that title confusion may profoundly impact the audience estimates of competitive magazines and their respective demographic profiles. Title confusion is a phenomenon that potentially occurs when respondents are uncertain about their readership of magazines, specifically when confronted by similarly titled magazines and/or magazines with similar content. This uncertainty, in turn, can lead to misclaiming of readership with the potential of impacting a magazine’s position within a competitive set. Title confusion’s importance to magazine researchers is further reflected in the substantial attention devoted to this issue throughout the past symposia, (Brown, 1999). Discussions have centered on grouping similar magazines, presentation order, using verbal vs. visual stimuli, using logos vs. covers and even the color of the visual stimuli.

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