All posts by Rudly Raphael

Paul DePodesta And The Power Of Analytics


Statistics are much more than numbers. They drive major business decisions, engineering, and everyday life. They fuel testing of new medicine, protect our borders, push the Warriors to the NBA title, and even guide personal decisions, whether used consciously or not.

Over millennia, military leaders employed data and analysis to defeat enemies. Today, major business leaders all over the world employ the same methodology in delivering cherished goods and services. Even the world of sports and entertainment understands this aspect of modern business. For example, The Cleveland Browns recently made headlines by hiring Paul DePodesta, a former collegiate wide receiver, rose to fame through a dramatization of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball,” which chronicled his ability to use baseball statistics to aid the Oakland A’s in competing against better financed teams.

After moving to the NFL, the Cleveland Browns collected three championship trophies in their first 5 years in the league. Unfortunately, their performance slipped into mediocrity by the 70’s, and in subsequent eras, their lackluster performance continued. While the Browns have a history of making bad personnel decisions, the Browns tapped DePodesta not due to their situation, but rather out of the need for a guide in transforming their organization, and remaining competitive.

This article explores analytics, big data, and their impact in and outside of sports; and why the Browns joined countless organizations in exploiting the power of data.


The Analytics Machine Driving Modern Business



Analytics or business intelligence (BI) owes its substance to military intelligence and serves the same essential purpose. At every stage of a campaign, intelligence gives commanders a clear picture of battle with pros and cons of options. In business, leaders maintain a picture of operations and status, and the factors affecting outcome.

Before computer use in business, business intelligence primarily involved legal spying (like military spies). It began to mature by the 1800s when Richard Miller Devens wrote about a banker exploiting data to outperform competitors. In the 1950s, commercial computers hit markets, and modern business intelligence officially began. Hans Peter Luhn, an IBM researcher and leading computer scientist, created foundational business analytics systems, and laid the groundwork for analyzing and distributing documents. Some consider him the father of BI.

Business intelligence advancement developed parallel to computer technology development, exploiting every viable tool available to private organizations and individuals. Through various innovations, its main resources actually remained the same: big data, analysis applications, and statistical theory. Cultural shifts within business led to more and deeper business intelligence use. Business, like sports, possesses a macho culture with great minds exploiting their instincts and natural talent. This environment wrestled with accepting analysis, however, the cold, hard facts won them over, cementing and advancing its role.

Analytics In Action:



Virtually every industry employs analytics including, but not limited to the following examples.

–  As it relates to marketing and advertising, analytics determine the effect of campaigns and channels including their ROI.
–  Analytics is widely used in politics to determine the best way to access, motivate and interact with political supporters.
–  Analytics is widely used in the military to understand the enemy or to go as far as anticipating or counter attacks. Some military applications even analyze an enemy’s facial expressions.
–  In medicine, along with improving profits and reducing waste, data predicts epidemics, aids in curing disease, and aids in avoiding preventable deaths.

IBM surveyed over 1,000 international executives from 67 countries. The survey reveals 63% of organizations achieve a positive return on analytics investment within one year, and 26% realize it in as little as 6 months. Businesses across sectors clearly recognize the transformative effect of analytics with customer service, operations efficiency, and financial or risk management as the main areas of application. Out of those surveyed, 49% of organizations report employing big data exceeded their expectations for returns, and 40% of organizations (up from 25% in 2013) focus analytics on operations.

CIO magazine surveyed over 300 professionals, and 65% credited analytics with driving business process change. These professionals represent manufacturing, financial services, telecoms, government, nonprofits, and healthcare. 100% of respondents stated their organization used analytics; furthermore, 57% claimed their organization would increase analytics spending.

Research has shown that more than 80% of the world’s major business leaders pursue big data projects to remain competitive.

Case Study: Nate Silver

Nate Silver, a statistician, skyrocketed to fame on the back of his baseball and election analysis. He initially became known for his PECOTA system, a statistical forecasting system for major league baseball player performance. His system grabbed the attention of major sports media entities and publications such as ESPN, the New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. Others recognized Silver’s talent after he correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 US presidential election. This earned him a spot on Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list. Four years later, he correctly predicted all 50 states in the 2012 election.

Quality data and analysis form the foundation of powerful analytics. The data must tell a story, and provide all the information needed to spot trends or support critical decisions. Any other data offers no insight. The size of big data proves its weakness and strength. Analysts unfortunately spend more time aggregating a sea of data than analyzing it. Many organizations also realize, like sports organizations, data analysts must partner with experts in the field to achieve quality analysis.


Rebuilding Cleveland’s Machine



Analytics might not get the Browns to the superbowl anytime soon, however, the organization has a different goal. They simply want to leverage an excellent resource in tuning operations, a move the NBA, MLB, and many other major leagues agree works. Many know about the general results of these efforts, but much of it remains hidden like the trade secrets of successful businesses.

Analytics on the Field

The Red Sox exploited analytics and emphasized on-base percentage, something which proved critical to developing a championship contender, and which currently fuels huge salaries. Nor (number of walks) caused baseball to reevaluate hitters and pitchers, and control the metric given its value both in prevention and draw. Analytics also caused a drop in base stealing attempts, which fell by 30% between 1993 and 2013. The NBA flocked to the 3-point corner shot on the strength of its performance in analysis, increasing the attempts by over 100 percent. Analysis also revealed optimal lineups and tactics.

Analytics offers more than game actions, and extends to player health. Many organizations use data to monitor, prevent, and manage injuries.

The Team

Data influences picks and coach selection, and goes even deeper. In football, a single statistic can be created to encapsulate the performance of a player, merging quantitative and qualitative characteristics. This aids in building a well-designed, devastating team instead of assembling a pack of men or women who display a bit of talent.

Analytics also goes further than the field and into more practical aspects of an organization’s business performance including areas like ticket sales and fan engagement. Data aids in reaching fans, supporters, and investors.


Cleveland’s Future



Ultimately, analytics make the Browns a stronger organization with better performance, a firmer foundation, and enhanced longevity in a competitive space. Despite this reality, a certain amount of reluctance exists in the NFL due to the very nature of the game. Many consider football too complex for analysis. Box score statistics accurately describe 90% of a baseball game compared with 40% of a football game, however, simple adjustments overcome this such as placing chips and sensors in football pads to gather data, or placing analysis equipment on the field (as in basketball and baseball).

The financial and cultural dynamic in the NFL also affects attitudes. The longtime owners of the NFL are extremely risk-averse, and along with owners who fear change, many coaches and managers also feel threatened. They fail to understand analytics as support for their decisions rather than a replacement for them.


The Man Who Predicted the Internet & Today’s Media Landscape

Man's eye before digital, amber numbers cascading

It is a rare occurrence when an academic reaches widespread fame beyond their specialties, such as in the case of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, or Joseph Campbell. It is almost unheard of for such a figure to be essentially prophetic when it comes to cultural and market shifts in society.

That individual would be Marshall McLuhan, Canadian philosopher of communication theory and a public intellectual. In the 60s, he held the same public prominence as such pop intellectuals as Andy Warhol and Timothy Leary. McLuhan was honored yearly by hippies with a festival in San Francisco, regularly appeared on television talk shows, advised John Lennon, and later in the 70s made a cameo in the film Annie Hall.

All of this attention to McLuhan, who was basically a dry scholar, was due to his pioneering ideas. One such idea was the prediction of the internet—something only touched upon in science fiction by authors like William Gibson.

By understanding McLuhan’s ideas—these days somewhat overlooked like his past fame—one can certainly gain insights on today’s seemingly frenetic media landscape and market research.


But Did He Really Predict the Internet?

“We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
― Marshall McLuhan

It is rarely disputed by scholars or biographers that McLuhan foretold the internet. 30 years before the World Wide Web came into the scene, in 1968, McLhuhan wrote in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy:

The next medium, whatever it is—it may be the extension of consciousness will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind.

McLuhan used the term “surfing” for traveling across this new medium, and is the originator of the term “Global Village.” To him, though, the new medium would be more like the Wild West and less like a Golden Age. As he wrote:

When people get close together, they get more and more savage, impatient with each other. The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.

One does not have to go far to see his oracular words come true in the caustic neighborhoods of the internet: anonymous comment sections, social media bullying, Laissez-faire male sexuality on Reddit, and downright societal revolution of hackers on 4Chan.

McLuhan made other contributions to advertising, marketing, and media theory, but it was his ability to see patterns in societal evolution that impressed so many. As biographer Douglas Coupland explained in a New York Times article:

One must remember that Marshall arrived at these conclusions not by hanging around, say, NASA or I.B.M., but rather by studying arcane 16th-century Reformation pamphleteers, the writings of James Joyce, and Renaissance perspective drawings. He was a master of pattern recognition, the man who bangs a drum so large that it’s only beaten once every hundred years.

The article further states that McLuhan “came up with a theory of media generation and consumption so plastic and fungible that it describes the current age without breaking a sweat.”

In addition, McLuhan deeply studied and warned of the darker effects of mass media on the mind long before any therapist or sociologist. In the end, though, McLuhan is probably best known for his timeless adage:

The medium is the message.


What Does That Mean?

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”
― Marshall McLuhan

“The medium is the message” may same sound strange in a world where content is king and big data is savior. Yet it does make sense, especially when McLuhan explained that a characteristic of a medium is it being an extension of a culture. Consequently, how a civilization embraces and reacts to a medium is just as relevant as the information it expresses. To McLuhan, “the medium is the message” primarily meant that not only should the content and data be studied, but the very medium that hosts is as well. As an example, McLuhan would contend that an ancient oral society would be more honest and honorable than a writing society, simply because of the more necessary honesty that is face-to-face communication.

To McLuhan, “the medium is the message” primarily meant that not only should the content and data be studied, but the very medium that hosts is as well as it rewires the very brainwaves of humans. As an example, McLuhan would contend that an ancient oral society would be more honorable in many ways than a writing society, simply because of the more honesty necessary for face-to-face communication.

Wikipedia further states on “the medium is the message”:

For McLuhan, it was the medium itself that shaped and controlled “the scale and form of human association and action”. Taking the movie as an example, he argued that the way this medium played with conceptions of speed and time transformed “the world of sequence and connections into the world of creative configuration and structure.” Therefore the message of the movie medium is this transition from “lineal connections” to “configurations”.

Likewise, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner.


How is This Relevant to Market Research?

“We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.”
― Marshall McLuhan

Today, it has become essential for any marketing to navigate various online mediums (often at once), in order to understand both shifting consumer sentiments and even brands themselves. Many marketers and researchers feel that we are entering a fruitful yet intricate era of qualitative research. Companies like Google and Microsoft, who combine predictive analytics and big data, certainly advocate prognosticating future consumer patterns as much as present behavior within online mediums.

Here is an example of “the medium is the message,” from our own primary research. In Mobile Vs. Online White Paper, we found that respondents using mobile technology were far more enthusiastic and engaged in surveys than those using personal computers. The quality of data was superior overall. Basically, the medium was the message, and that message was that respondents were more open and content within the medium of mobile technology.

There are other examples, but the main point is that not only is the psychology of consumers more important than ever, but how it changes like a chameleon in different online ecosystems.

The Global Village may not be the utopia researchers and idealists expected, far from it, but McLuhan would be very eager to engage this Wild West (he left the mass media called life in 1980). That is until he predicted the next great media arrival, which most experts wouldn’t even know was here.

Then again, McLuhan did once comment: “I don’t necessarily agree with everything that I say.”

Boosting Response Rates: Crafting the Perfect Survey Invitation Email

Historically mail surveys have better response rates than online surveys. But it doesn’t mean online surveys aren’t useful. In fact, online surveys have the advantage of being more cost-effective and easier to administer than mail surveys. Studies have shown that there are several ways to increase response rates for online surveys. qSample has searched the Internet, scholarly journals, trade publications, and just about everywhere else to compile a thorough list of ways to boost response rates for online surveys.

This new five-part series, will explore the topics of invitation emails, survey incentives, survey design, understanding the data from surveys, and how make decisions based on survey results.

The online survey invitation email is the first contact between survey administrators and respondents. Like the cliché states, first impressions are everything. It takes seconds for the respondent to decide to open an email, ignore it, or delete it. So there is only a few seconds that survey administrators have to convince respondents to open the invitation email.

The process of survey administration begins with the survey invitation. The subject line of the invitation email is the first step in the process. A high open rate of email invitations, leads to a higher click-through-rate, which then leads to high survey page impressions, which, of course, leads to higher survey starts and ultimately high survey completion rates.
The survey invitation consists of the subject line, the message, and the closing of the email. Each of these sections is important, and the respondent can abandon the email at any point.


The first step in creating an effective online survey invitation email that will guarantee high open rates is a great subject line. Crafting the subject line can be difficult. It can’t be too long as more emails are read on smartphones. The best subject line will include the name of the respondent, the name of the company or organization, and the perceived value for the respondent. Here are examples of good and bad subject lines:

BAD: Complete this survey and win a prize!
GOOD: Jennifer, which fall trends we should sell at Francesca’s?

The “bad” example doesn’t state the name of the organization or company, it doesn’t address the respondent by name, and it doesn’t create value for the respondent. Most importantly, the wording of the subject line would trigger email spam filters. See the word cloud below for words and phrases most commonly synonymous with spam.

Words to avoid when crafting survey invitation emails

Words to avoid when crafting survey invitation emails

Let’s look at the “good” example. What makes this a good subject line? For one it’s short, about 50 characters long, which is the general rule for creating subject lines. Using both the company’s name and the name of the respondent has also been shown to increase open-click-rates because it personalizes the email for the respondent. People respond best when seeing their name in the subject line along with a recognizable company.

What this subject line does best of all is great value for the respondent. Assuming the respondent is someone who shops at Francesca’s and is someone who is interested in fashion trends, this subject line would appeal to this respondent. The respondent will value having an opportunity to influence the store’s buying decisions. The ability to have input on what a company decides creates value for the respondent. Before creating the invitation, think about what the respondents’ value most.

Because it takes respondents only a few seconds to decide to open or delete an email, there may be pressure for survey administrators to write creative subject lines that stand out. The subject line doesn’t have to be clever. In fact, a study a few years ago proved that clear subject lines received 54 percent more open-click-rates than a clever one. Respondents will always respond better to clear and concise subject lines.

The importance of the subject line cannot be discussed without discussing the importance of the “from” field. The “from” field is the fastest way to gain the respondent’s trust. Establish trust by making sure the name of the company or the organization the survey is for is stated explicitly in the “from” field. Here are good and bad examples of the “from” field.

GOOD: Francesca’s Dress Shop “

While the respondent may recognize that the “from” field of the bad example is from a trusted company, it’s informal at best. If the respondent doesn’t recognize the sender’s email address, then sender, the survey administrator, may not establish trust. If possible, use an actual person’s name and email address, if the respondent knows the person. For example, Francesca’s could be sending a survey to past customers. Since it’s a small shop, the from field could be “Francesca, <>.”

Emails must vie for attention. The decision to open an email takes only a few seconds. This is why the subject line and the “from” field of the invitation email are the most important part of the process. If there is a low open rate, go back and tweak the subject line. The survey email invitation is always a work in progress.

Here is an example of how a successful email invitation should appear in the respondent’s inbox on their smartphone:

Jennifer, Francesca’s Dress Shop needs your opinion on fall trends
Francesca’s Dress Shop
First Line of Email Message Goes Here


If the respondent has opened the email, then the subject line completed its objective. Convincing the respondent to open the survey link is the next objective.

In order to accomplish this objective, the email message must be addressed to the respondent, if possible. Remember personalization is always the key because respondents responding positively to seeing email addressed to themselves.

Next, the email should explain the purpose of the email, the purpose of the survey, and how the results of the survey will be used. Be compelling. Don’t worry about being creative. Respondents respond better to clear and concise writing. For example, the message for Francesca’s Dress Shop could begin like this:

Dear Jennifer,

You are a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop. As such, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Below is a link to our five-minute survey.

Those three short sentences convey why the respondent received the email (she’s a customer), explains the purpose of the survey (determine which trends the store should sell), and how the results would be used (which trends the store will sell). These three sentences also convey the value for the respondent. First, the email acknowledges that she is valued. Second, she has the opportunity to influence what the store will buy and sell.

It’s also important to remind the respondent that they may have agreed to be contacted. Here is an example of how the above example could be tweaked to include this information:

Dear Jennifer,

As a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop, you stated that we could contact you about company news, surveys and product news. Today, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Please complete our five-minute survey.

Now that the email established value, the purpose of the survey, and how the survey results will be used, it’s time to address the actual survey. It’s important to state how long the respondent should expect the survey to take. This could be the approximate time it takes to complete the survey or the number of questions asked. Respect the respondents time by being honest. If it is a long survey, let them know. If there are any special requirements, tell them. Here’s an example:

Dear Jennifer,

As a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop, you stated that we could contact you about company news, surveys, and product news. Today, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Please click on the link below to complete our five-minute survey by October 31, 2014.

The message now tells the respondents how long the survey will take and provides a deadline. Since the respondents of the survey are customers of the store, helping the store determine what to sell could be enough of an incentive. Incentives are important (that’s another blog post), they have to be carefully considered before administering. In this example of the dress shop, the owner could offer a discount. They could have a raffle and the winner could win an expensive item. Or the owner could think outside of the box. Here’s an example:

Dear Jennifer,

As a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop, you stated that we could contact you about company news, surveys, and product news. Today, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Please click on the link below for our ten-minute survey by October 31, 2014.

Once the survey is completed, you will receive an evite for our invitation only spa night at the store, where we will serve wine, appetizers, and desserts. You will also receive a pedicure, manicure and facial, free of charge.. Once you arrive, you will be entered into a raffle for prizes that include some of our favorite pieces and spa products. You will also be able to shop our exclusive clearance sale. All this for helping us determine our fall line!

The incentive should be expressly stated, as well as how the respondent can claim it when they complete the survey. In the above example, the respondent knows that they will receive an invitation to the store for a spa night with wine and food. If respondent comes to the event, they will be entered into a raffle and have a chance to buy items at a discount. For customers who frequently shop at the store, this provides extra incentive to complete the survey.

The email message should always include some information about how the company will protect the respondent’s privacy. Briefly explaining the company’s privacy policy could go a long way in allaying fears about the security and misuse of personal data:
Dear Jennifer,

As a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop, you stated that we could contact you about company news, surveys, and product news. Today, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Please click on the link below for our ten-minute survey by October 31, 2014.

Once the survey is completed, you will receive an evite for our invitation only spa night at the store, where we will serve wine, appetizers, and desserts. You will also receive a pedicure, manicure and facial, free of charge.. Once you arrive, you will be entered into a raffle for prizes that include some of our favorite pieces and spa products. You will also be able to shop our exclusive clearance sale. All this for helping us determine our fall line!

Insert Survey Link Here!

At Francesca’s, we understand your personal information must be protected. We will not sell your personal data to any third party. The information we obtain will be used solely for determining our Fall 2014 line.

The bulk of the invitation email is nearly complete. Establishing credibility is the next step. Providing a short company description and a link to the company website or the company’s address and phone number further establishes that the email is not spam, or that it contains malware.

The next to last step in crafting an invitation email that will lead to higher response rates is the closing of the email.

The email invitation is nearly complete. It’s always best to end with gratitude. Thanking the respondents for taking the time to complete the survey goes a long way in increasing response rates.

What also helps is closing the email with the name of a contact, their title, and email address. This also helps to establish credibility. Here’s an example of a good closing and a bad closing:


Thank you in advance for completing our survey. We appreciate you taking the time out of your day to complete it.


Owner, Francesca’s Dress Shop
111 Bryn Mawr Ave
Chicago, IL 60660


Thanks for completing our survey!


Market Research Department


With the survey invitation email completed, it’s now ready to be sent. But what time and what day should the email be sent? There have been numerous studies showing the correlations between picking the right day and time to send a survey invitation and response rates.

A recent research paper concluded that the best days that had the highest corresponding response rates were Fridays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, respectively. The best time of day to send the emails were between 4:01 pm and 8 pm. Second best time was 12:01 pm and 4 pm. The worst time to send the email was between 4:01 am and 8 am.

To sum it all up, the survey invitation email is one the most important elements in the survey administration process. Think of the process from the viewpoint of the respondent, and remember that it takes only a few seconds for a respondent to open the email or delete the email.

Next week, we discuss survey incentives and how the right incentive can increase response rates.

Access Over Ownership: Consumers Prefer Media Subscription

As the media world continues to focus on instant access and mobility, consumers are choosing subscription services to rent movies, TV shows, games, and music instead of purchasing them. Since the advent of the digital revolution, consumers seem to place a higher demand on access to media, rather than actually owning it. Media subscription services are more popular than ever, and qSample decided to find out why people choose the services that they do.

A survey of over 500 consumers was fielded during the first weeks of June to gauge perception, attitude, and preferences on the subject of media subscriptions. The results indicated that price and variety were the leading factors in how consumers value subscriptions. While, “more options”, was the reason that 34 percent valued those services, 38 percent picked their subscription based on price. This could suggest that consumers are much more interested in options and price, than in image, service quality, and other factors. Our survey showed that 63 percent of media subscribers pay less than $20 for their services each month, or roughly $1.50 per day. That’s less than most people pay for coffee each morning. The survey also indicated that 89 percent of consumers use subscription services at least once per week. This would suggest that the vast majority are actually paying $1.50-$5 per week for each day they use their subscription, and up to $9 each week for the days that they’re not using those services.

Media Sub 1

Consumers preferred the subscription pricing system over all others. In fact, 57 percent chose subscriptions over the free (paid for by sponsors/ads), pay what you want, and freemium pricing systems. This could be due to the simplicity of subscriptions, a lower price point, or even the negative attitudes that people typically adopt towards commercials. It’s more likely that this is indication of the consumer’s increasing desire for access to media, instead of ownership.

Sponsors and advertisements do play a key role in how many people view media. 43 percent of consumers surveyed felt advertisements devalue TV and Movies. Another 24 percent thought that ads and sponsors devalue games and music, while 29 percent felt that advertisements didn’t lower the value of media at all.

Consumers use their subscriptions on many devices, but even with advancements in smartphone and tablet technology, our survey showed that 28 percent still prefer laptops. Unsurprisingly, digital was the most popular format, and it was also the most used, but 27 percent indicated that they still use physical subscription options such as CD’s and DVD’s which are mailed to them.

Media Sub 2

Google Play was perceived as having the highest value for audiophiles, but Spotify was only used by 6 percent. It was valued highly by just 4 percent. Interestingly, Netflix was chosen for having the most value, not just for TV watchers, but in the entire category of media subscription services. According to the survey, 56 percent felt that Netflix offered the highest value over all. Amazon Video on Demand was a distant second with only 10 percent, and only 5 percent preferred Redbox. An equal number of Gamers chose Playstation Plus and Xbox Live as the service with the most value, which may indicated that Microsoft is recovering from the difficult launch of the Xbox One.

This is the age of access. Technology has grown at a staggering rate, and consumers are no longer demanding to own their media as they did before. People embrace the subscription system for its ease and simplicity, but price and options are the factors that can make or break a subscription company. No one understands this better than Netflix, the king of the industry, but for competitors, innovation and insight into what the consumer really wants could overthrow Netflix’s rule. Let’s not forget what happened to Blockbuster. No one can stay on top unless they know their consumers.
Media Sub 3

Going to the 2014 FIFA World Cup? It’s Going to Cost You!

According to the U.S. consulate in Rio, more than 187,000 tickets have been purchased by American credit cards and 80,000 U.S. visitors are expected to attend the Cup.

In the infographic below we break down a few of the costs Americans can expect to spend if they’re planning to attend the 2014 FIFA World Cup in just one week. Would you be willing to pay the price?

FIFA World Cup

Infographic on travel costs for FIFA 2014

Our top 10 FREE Apps for Enjoying the NBA Playoffs!

The NBA Playoffs began on April 19th, and it’s looking to be one for the history books. For the first time since the beginning of the NBA, the Lakers, Celtics, and New York Knicks are all missing from the playoffs at once, but the fans aren’t missing anything.

With TV coverage, live streaming online, smartphone and tablet apps, forums, and much more, the list of ways that fans can interact seems endless. That’s why we looked into the best ways to stay updated and connect with everything.

For smartphones, most people opt for the NBA League Pass app. This app allows users to stream games live, and catch news, scores, alerts, stats, and much more. Usually it costs $55 to receive content, but since the regular season is over it will only cost $16.99 to catch the playoffs. Android users will need the NBA Game time 2014 app to use your league pass.

Of course, not everyone wants to dish out the big bucks for that kind of access, so we’ve also decided to put together a list of Top Ten Currently Popular Playoff Apps for Your iPhone and iPad, and since we want fans to spend their money on something useful, like tickets, snacks, and a bigger TV, all of these apps can be downloaded for free!

Top Ten Currently Popular Playoff Apps for Your iPhone and iPad

1.      WatchESPN

2.      Yahoo Sports

3.      FanFinder – Sports Bar Locator

4.      365Scores – Sports Live Scores, Results & News

5.      Yahoo! Sportacular HD

6.      Betting Odds – Vegas Lines, Picks, Scores

7.      KNBR

8.      Playoff Hoops

9.      Tickets on the Fly

10.  Beyond the Box: Real-time sports Instagram photos and


Warning, these apps may be free, but as always, some have fees to unlock features, so the full experience may still cost a few bucks!

Will Office for iPad Make Tablets the Tool for Work?

Last month, Microsoft shook the tablet world by finally launching its Office for iPad apps, and the reverberations may be felt for years to come.

While tablets have become extremely popular, with many users preferring smaller to bulky and more awkward laptops, they have yet to truly find their niche in the business world. Even with bluetooth keyboards, and writing tools like Google Docs and iWork, many businesses refuse to adopt the device as a serious business tool. In the academic arena, many students prefer tablets for note taking and research, but find it awkward to use for papers and presentations. The launch of Microsoft’s Office for iPad apps is designed to change all that.

We conducted a survey with our general consumer panel to gauge their level in the new Microsoft Office for iPad app. The survey was fielded in less than 2 days during the first week of April, with more than 400 respondents sharing their insights on this new product and what it means to them professionally.

Survey results clearly indicate that tablets are still very popular with the general populaltion. Unsurprisingly, Apple was king among those devices with  almost half (40.45%) of our panel indicated they own a version of the iPad, but a mere 26.18% claim their primary uses for those tablets are for work and school. Confirming our suspicions, we found that entertainment rules the tablet world, with a staggering 69.12% of our panel logging on for fun. As always, internet surfing, watching videos, and updating social network pages continue to be a staple of tablet use.

Clearly this isn’t a hardware issue, and many who own Apple devices, such as the iPad, prefer to use the Microsoft Office software. This suggests that the new apps will be very well received by tablet owners, but there is a lot more involved than ease of use. Our survey showed that there was a strong positive reaction to the Office for iPad apps, as 63.02% said that they plan on using the new apps now that they are available, yet 76.56% didn’t feel that the apps were worth the $99 subscription fee. This is likely due to the abundance of less powerful, but free, programs/apps that will allow users to run similar tasks. Price does seem to play an enormous role, as 64.58% of our panel is considering the free Microsoft Office smartphone apps as a serious alternative. This poses the question of whether or not smartphones may find a place as a document editing tool in the business world as well.

The smartphone apps may be free, but lack many important features that are available on the iPad and laptop versions. In addition to features, portability seems to be a factor. Today’s “on-the-go” lifestyle means that document editing on a smartphone may be preferable to carrying a bulky laptop, or even a tablet. On the down side, small screens and lack of features may discourage users from choosing apps like Office for smartphones, even if they’re free. Our panel was also concerned about storage space on their devices. These apps can take up a considerable amount of space on users’ iPads, and 67.71% claimed that this alone would discourage them from downloading the software.

Cloud services have been available for some time, but there is no question that Microsoft has arrived very late to the game. This may be due to the company’s efforts to streamline their products for unconventional devices, or a simple lack of attention to the tablet market. In either case, this is definitely an interesting move for Microsoft. One pitfall of releasing the apps for the iPad is that this may have a negative effect on the sales of non-Apple tablets, including Microsoft’s own Surface. In addition, the Office for iPad apps are significantly better looking and much more streamlined than other versions. This may influence which tablets businesses buy for their employees, and ultimately hurt Microsoft’s Surface sales as well. Apple will receive a percentage of Office 365 subscription fees sold through iTunes, which will also add to the funding of their competition. All of these factors make the late release of the Office for iPad apps a very interesting decision. Only time will tell if Microsoft’s new launch was a brilliant strategy, or too-little-too-late, but in any case, the world is taking a second look at the tablet as a serious business tool.

Microsoft Office for iPad Infographic (3)

Who’s Footing the Spring Break Bill?

A survey conducted with Campus Universe – qSample’s College Student panel,  revealed that only 26% of college students had a full time job during the academic year. 30% of students surveyed indicated they had a part time job, while 42% claimed that they did not work at all.

Yet, every single year, more than 1.5 million students go on spring break and collectively spend over one billion dollars. Panama Beach, Florida is the #1 domestic spring break destination, with an attendance of over 592,000 students recorded in 2013. South Padre Island, Texas is the second largest domestic Spring Break destination, with an attendance of 225,000 students reported in 2013.

During the month of March, the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Panama City Beach is the highest grossing Wal-Mart throughout the nation.  Spring breakers are also responsible for contributing to the popularity of the Holiday Inn Resort in Panama City Beach, as each year it reaches 250,000+ students between in-room, pool deck parties and their daily beach front activations during the month of March.

The survey also revealed that when returning home from their vacations, a large majority of college students intends to stay with their parents. Over 31% of students surveyed by qSample noted that they lived with their parents during the previous school year.


Spring is the Season for Home Improvement!

For many people, spring is not just the season for rain showers and the start of America’s pastime.  It’s also the number one season for home improvements, renovations, and home sales.

Homeowners and contractors alike will be hitting the home improvement stores multiple times to perform mini makeovers in every room of the house.

35 percent of qSample’s contractor panel prefer to buy their supplies from Home Depot. While 19 percent of contractors said they buy their supplies from Lowes. Panelists cited location, bigger selection, and pricing as the top three factors in determining where they shop.

Jade Lafleur, a realtor from Coldwell Banker, thinks making a few simple touch-ups to a house can really make a big difference. “A little can go a long way,” Lafleur said, “especially when it comes to the outside of the house. Curb appeal is crucial, never under estimate how far something as simple as repainting a front door can go. Many times potential buyers will find photos of houses they like online, and drive by them first in order to decide if they even want to take a tour inside.”

54 percent of qSample’s homeowner panel spend $1,000-$2,999 annually on home improvements, while only 17 percent of homeowners spend $3,000-$4,999 annually.

Lafleur also suggests painting the doorframe and at least the foyer or front room, as well. It’s best to use neutral colors and something that blends well into the rest of the neighborhood. Whether you are doing the work yourself, or if you have hired someone, it is important to make sure all of the prep work is done first. Be certain to wash away all of the dirt and patch any necessary surface areas before beginning to paint.

There is no time like today to start a new home improvement project just in time for spring.