Saturday, June 21, 2008

I don't think week-to-week fluctuations in soap ratings are meaningful

I just don't think these weekly fluctuations are meaningful. Most shows are up some weeks, down some weeks. This is what is sometimes know as "steady state fluctuation about a moving average".

The weekly fluctuations truly, honestly, deeply, trust me aren't worth worrying about.

Where you get RELIABLE trend data, for example, is if you break the year into quarters....and you compare each quarter to previous quarters. There is a reason that financial analysts look at company balance sheets that way...they know there are random fluctuations, and they are not interpretable.

Take a look at this wiki on random walk. It gets a bit technical, but the core point is this: The TRAJECTORY makes sense, but the bobs up and down on that trajectory are just kind of random and meaningless.

They use a great analogy of a drunkard walking a city street. The drunkard IS getting from point A to point B, but the path is going to weave and bob. If we want to figure out where the drunkard is going, we can't watch that weaving and bobbing...we have to take a longer-view...follow the drunkard for a while to see where he/she is headed.

So, what we have to do with ATWT...with all the watch their quarterly averages. Even that COULD be infused with random fluctuation...(even the annual data Sylph and I keep posting shows annual random fluctuation around moving averages)...but it tells a truer story.

One of my fears is that Madison Avenue and the networks watch these weekly variations and try to interpret them...much as we all do. Really, truly, I hope they do not...because they are MEANINGLESS.

In recent weeks, the ONLY trend that I think bears watching is Y&R. Why? because it fell pretty precipitiously from 4.0...and over a has not rebounded. THAT feels like a reliable trajectory to me. But notice that within that REAL plummet, there is a random walk. (Down to 3.4 one week, up to 3.6 the next). That .2 fluctuation is meaningless. What is meaningful is that the show seems to have "permanently" dipped below 4, and it ain't headed back up. (I say that because really there is little evidence in the history of soaps of trajectory reversals...with a very few GH in the early 80s).

Sorry for the lecture, but I can't help myself.....

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