Nick Bowman, Ph.D.

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MediaPsych ... Understanding how your audience Understands your message

Understanding the Psychology of Today's Media Audience...As an active researcher and academic, I have dedicated the greater portion of my academic career to this very thought. But my obsession with Understanding goes far back before my Ph.D. days at Michigan State University. As a young journalist in St. Louis, I often wondered about how the newspaper audience used and responded to my stories. When working as an Intern for a large PR firm, I was always curious about the psychological underpinnings of our crisis communications strategies, and if we really had an understanding of how people used and responded to the information we provided them. Going back further, I wondered why some days I spent hours playing video games or watching television, and other days you couldn't find me within 100 feet of a media product.

We live in the Age of Information, where the world economy is not based on crops or cars, but on information. Today's media audiences are larger than ever before, yet academics and professionals alike shake their heads at the notion of broadcasting, as media has become an increasingly customizable and highly personal experience. How have these changes affected our media choices, and how have these choices affected our responses to media? How can YOUR media product survive in the new mediascape? At MediaPsych, we are singularly focused on understanding these questions.

Beyond media research, MediaPsych also conducts primary and secondary analysis of marketing and branding data an consults on survey and experimental research design. Whether you want a second opinion on your marketing data or need to develop and implement an audience analysis survey to better understand your consumers, the researchers at MediaPsych can provide help in these areas and more.

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Sample Consulting Projects*
*note that all client names and identifying information have been removed

Audience Analysis: College newspaper readership trends

The independent newspaper at a large public university was concerned about declining readership among their student population, including low pickup rates and very low online traffic. Using a mixed methodology that included closed-ended survey questions and ope-ended short essays, we were able to determine a few key trends, including: (1) that the newspaper was not seen as a critical independent voice from the university itself, (2) that the digital footprint (web page and social media) were being ignored, in part because the content there wasn't fresh or unique from the printed edition, (3) students did not see the newspaper as critical to their identity as students at the university, and (4) that the paper's reputation was positive, but not highly regarded. Based on this data (in a six-page comprehensive report, for the client), intervention meetings were held with editorial staff. Follow-up focus groups are now planned to track the newspaper's progress over the next several months.

Program assessment: Calculus

A large University was curious to see if their bespoke Calculus placement test was a better indicator of students' performance in Calculus than standardized tets such as the ACT or SAT, and they also wanted to explore the effectiveness of the pre-Calculus course on eventual Calculus performance. MediaPsych was able to answer these questions by demonstrating that (a) the bespoke placement text was a significant and substantial predictor of Calculus performance (explaining about 25% of variance in students' grades), (b) standardized tests scors had no impact on Calculus performance, and (c) the pre-Calculus course indirectly impacted Calculus performance by boosting students' placement scores. We were also able to determine the lowest scores on the bespoke placement exam that predicted success in the Calculus course.

Designing mindfulness interventions for inner-city 'at-risk' youth

A psychologist in inner-city New York was organizing a grant appliation to design and implement mindfulness interventions in an afterschool program in Brooklyn. She had already used mindfulness programs in practical appliation, but wanted to design an experiment to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of different parts of the intervention program (a five-part program; she had questions about the relative effectiveness of the individual components). She contacted MediaPsych and after a short pre-consultation to assess her program's experimental and statistal needs, our consultants helped her design a series of developmental and pilot experiments, review several options for statistical analysis, and finally assisted her in writing up the method section of her grant proposal. The application is now under review, and if funded MediaPsych will stay with the researcher as her statistical consultation firm.

Understanding morality to understand storyline progression

An upstart graphic novelist was pondering a common concern: "How do I make my storyline stand out amongst the glut?" He met with researchers at MediaPsych and discussed his plot development and concerns about the story being 'too cliche'. Our research team took his storyboards and analyzed them recent developments in entertainment psychology and identified key elements in the plot in which audiences might engage or disengage the rest of the story. In the print medium, narrative progression and engagement is key to success, and after talking with MediaPsych the graphic novelist was able to get a better understanding of how his audience might interact with the moral dilemmas in his storyline.

College Marketing and Branding - Secondary Data Analysis tells a deeper story

A small private College in the Southeastern US was looking to refresh it's brand to better situate itself for a transition from a quiet two-year institution to a competitive four-year College of Distinction. Part of this plan involved surveying high school students in several target markets to guage their current brand awareness of the school. A large marketing firm was contracted to conduct online surveys of the students, and the results were presented at a marketing meeting. The initial results of a multi-item branding questionairre were presented using simple proportions and percentages, showing the highest- and lowest-rated items related to students' decisions to attend a college. Out of more than 30 items, detecting reliable patterns of results from so many seperate means and percentages was difficult. Upon request, MediaPsych reanalyzed the data using Exploratory Factor Analysis (a method of analysis that searches for groups of underlying concepts in large sets of survey data) found six distinct predictors of college choice. Moreover, MediaPsych found that the highest-rated factor (small, intimate college) actually explained the least amount of variance in a students' actual college choice; in other words, the items that appeared to be the most important when looking at simple means and percentages were actually the weakest predictor of acutally choosing to attend a college! Secondary data analysis allowed the College to reconsider investing a large amount of their marketing budget into selling the intimacy of their college and instead focus on other variables (such as cost of attendance) that explained substantially more variance in the decision to attend the College.

Understanding human communication to understand media campaigns

Recently, MediaPsych was asked to serve on a "Communication and Education" panel for a non-profit conservation group in western Maryland. The panel was tasked with identifying the extent to which there was a communication problem amongst hte many shareholders of the lakeside community regarding the long-term welfare of their lake - a man-made attraction that currently accountws for over 80% of the economic foundation of the region. MediaPsych researchers are currently working with this organization to craft a comprehensive communication strategy based on relevant theoretical and practical concerns regarding traditional and social media, paying particular attention to campaigning in rural communities with low Internet penetration, a small media footprint and a large portion of the population that only inhabits the region for less than three months a year.

Online Surveys and Experiments

Although not one particular project, MediaPsych has worked with several researchers and project coordinators to design and implement a variety of online studies. Beyond simply distributing online surveys, MediaPsych has provided its partners with strategies for randomly sampling from key audiences (rather than simply relying on snowball sampling methods or pass-along methods) and building dynamic survey content to display randomly-assigned video and image files. Past examples of our online work include collecting data on responses to randomly-assigned breast cancer messages (to assess the effect of these messages on respondent's health behaviors), an examination of gender impression-formation in virtual environments (to assess whether or not a user's virtual behaviors can be used to give insight about their personality), and work tracking fan behaviors of fantasy sports players (tracking attitudes toward professional baseball athletes and teams based on fantasy sports performance during the 2008 MLB season). Researchers with MediaPsych are experienced with designing and implementing quality online survey and experiment campaigns, and are eager to provide these services to your organization.

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Contact Information

For more information about MediaPsych:

For information about rates and availablity, and to see if MediaPsych can meet your research and data analysis needs, please contact us at:

Nick Bowman, Ph.D.
Lead Researcher
Twitter @bowmanspartan
Skype: nicholasdbowman

Interested in joining the Consultation team?

We are always looking for qualified research Ph.D.s to join our expanding network of consultants so that we can provide a diverse and robust portfolio of services to our clients. If you are interested in joining the Group, please submit and updated C.V. to You should be contacted within 72 hours to set up a pre-interview.

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