Larry Rosin, co-founder and president of global media research and election polling firm, Edison Research, has always checked the “extremely certain” box when asked about his career direction.
Since graduating from business school — and over the course of two decades leading his own firm — Rosin has conducted market research for businesses, governments and news operations around the world.
Somerville, N.J.-based Edison is perhaps best known for work it does every four years — conducting primary and general election exit polls for a consortium of US new organizations collectively known as the National Election Pool (NEP).
Starting with today’s Iowa caucuses, Edison will provide election projections and voter analysis for both the Democratic and Republican parties to give NEP-member network news desks the information they need to make their early voting predictions.
From Iraq to the Research Moms
Edison’s exit polling services don’t stop at the US border either, nor has the firm shied away from assignments in political hot spots. Rosin’s company has worked elections in Azerbaijan, The Republic of Georgia, Venezuela and Iraq among others to help ensure what his website diplomatically refers to as the “propriety” of the voting results there.
Closer to home, Edison also employs the “Research Moms,” a group of experienced researchers who conduct quantitative and qualitative market research to analyze behaviors and trends among US mothers, as well as conducting numerous other consumer and audience research surveys.
CMSWire spoke with Rosin recently about his long career in market research, the dramatic shifts he’s seeing in American media usage and the role his company will play in analyzing the voting in this year’s presidential primaries.
Sobel: You hold a BA in Political Philosophy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton and an MBA from the Wharton School. How did you end up in media consulting?
Rosin: I studied marketing and market research at Wharton and I knew I wanted to work in market research after graduating. I found a job with a small company in Philadelphia called Bolton Research that specialized in research for radio stations. Up to that point I hadn’t even known that such a niche existed but I started doing research for radio and found that it was really fun, really interesting and that I was good at it.
After six years there, it felt like time for me to start my own business. I loved radio and still do, but I really wanted to branch out into other areas. That was 21 years ago and Edison is now best known as the company that conducts the exit polls for the news organizations that comprise the National Election Pool — ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and the Associated Press.
Sobel: What will Edison’s role be at the Iowa caucuses taking place today and during the 2016 presidential primaries and national election?
Rosin: While we intently watch all the pre-election polls, Edison performs exit polls, or in the case of Iowa, entrance polls. Our role is to help the networks analyze those results and project winners.
I think the big thing to watch for in Iowa and the early primaries will be voter turnout. I would say there’s a very good chance that more people will vote in these primaries than ever before and a larger electorate increases the potential for surprises.
Sobel: Can you tell us about some of Edison’s non-election year market research initiatives?
Rosin: Actually, one big focus for us is adapting our exit poll techniques to use in polling people as they exit all kinds of places such as movies, concerts, stores or malls.
We have also conducted an annual tracking study called Infinite Dial since 1998. It tracks uptake in new platforms and device ownership among Americans age 12 and older. As an example of a change we’ve seen over time, in our first-ever study, 6 percent of respondents told us they had ever listened to Internet audio. Our 2015 report found that 44 percent of respondents reported listening to Internet audio in the last week.
Our podcasting data has also generated a lot of interest. As of January 2015, 10 percent of Americans said they had listened to a podcast during the week before they were interviewed. I’ll be interested to see how much that number changes when we release our 2016 survey update this March.
Another methodology we’re excited about addresses questions related to how much time our survey respondents spend listening to various types of media. We call it “Share of Ear” and it’s based on over 8,000 diary interviews each year.
It measures where our respondents listen — for example, AM/FM, satellite radio or Internet radio like Pandora and Spotify — what devices they listen on, when they listen and what kind of content — music, news, talk, sports — they’re listening to. For now, AM/FM is still the dominant player but it should come as no surprise that enormous changes are taking place, particularly among young people.