Reliability of collected online data challenged

Businesses are challenging the reliability of some data collected online – the fastest-growing method in the market research industry.

Taylor Nelson Sofres, the global market research group, said companies were concerned that the emergence of “professional” web respondents simultaneously signed up to several online research panels could skew results from the web.

Over-questioning of panellists, who can be interviewed quicker and cheaper online than by telephone or in person, is also seen as a danger, while maintaining the credibility of web data will be vital if the medium is to continue its recent growth as a research tool, according to TNS.

David Lowden, chief executive of TNS, said: “We have strict rules on how we use online respondents. That is not the case with all suppliers.”

“Our response rates to online questionnaires tend to be 40-50 per cent. But there are companies where it is less than 5 per cent, because they simply send too many questions.”

The amount of TNS business based on data from its internet panels rose 22 per cent during the first half of 2007, compared with a forecast 5.9 per cent rise in underlying group revenues.

Overall, in the six months to June 30, pre-tax profits rose 13 per cent from £30m to £33.9m on revenues of £497.4m (£480.5m).

Earnings per share increased 33 per cent to 5.9p (3.9p) and the interim dividend is 1.6p (1.4p). The shares fell 1½p to 228p.

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