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iTunes Sales Not 'Collapsing' After All

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the looking-at-the-bigger-picture dept.

Media (Apple) 122

john82 writes "Earlier this month we had a report from Forrester, based on a random sampling of 2,000 credit card accounts, that purported to show that iTunes sales were crashing. Now comes another survey from Reston, VA-based ComScore which indicates the exact opposite. ComScore's report which is based on actual iTunes sales shows a 84% increase during the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile the author of the Forrester report, Josh Bernoff, noted in his blog yesterday that they shouldn't be pummeled just because everyone took what he wrote and ran with it."

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Own up to your reporting (5, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248488)

Meanwhile the author of the Forrester report, Josh Bernoff, noted in his blog yesterday that they shouldn't be pummeled just because everyone took what he wrote and ran with it."

Well, that is why people should be responsible for their reporting. In my business, when you report something, you stand by it. If you present data or a theory with the suspicion that it is incorrect, that is fraud in my line of work. Seriously though, did you *really* think that a sample size of just over 1000 purchases on credit cards obtained through a back channel source is a reliable sample size for the number of iTunes purchases? If I correctly recall, Apple announced back in February that they were selling about 3 million songs/day and if the current estimates of increases on the order of 84% are correct, your sample size is woefully under-representative. Thats just high school statistics by the way...

I am not saying that you should lose your job over this one, but this should be a tacit reminder of how important good reporting is and if you are beyond your means or competence on a particular story or analysis, go find some help before you publish it, do some fact checking and be more careful with stories that can have a significant impact on companies and individuals.

Re:Own up to your reporting "I stand..." (5, Funny)

Elsan (914644) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248558)

I stand by this man as long as he isn't proven wrong.

Re:Own up to your reporting (5, Insightful)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248610)

Indeed, he should stand by his work. But all of the websites and blogs weren't afraid to use Mr. Bernoff's report to drum up an Apple doom-and-gloom story for the sake of attracting readers.

Re:Own up to your reporting (4, Funny)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248986)

Well, everyone knows that Apple is beleaguered and ready to die. Everyone knows that!

Re:Own up to your reporting (3, Insightful)

lottameez (816335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249126)

I think everyone can also figure out that Apple probably didn't pay Forrester enough "research" fees.

Re:Own up to your reporting (1, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249240)

No kidding. Everyone knows Apple is on death's door. We've known that for 20 years.

Re:Own up to your reporting (4, Funny)

HAKdragon (193605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249266)

Apple Computer, on the verge of dying since 1976!

Re:Own up to your reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17250046)

The word you're looking for is beleaguered.

As in, "Apple, the beleaguered computer maker, reported today that hordes of rabid squirre...the once vibrant and innovative company...helped launch the personal computer revolution before IBM and Mic...analysts predict...employees and shareholders alike, stung by the report...rumors swirl...Sony, the innovative and wildly successful consumer electronics giant...vorak, an influential industry commentator and former Mac enthusiast wrote in his column...liquidate...icrosoft pump millions of dollars...before things get better...beleaguered..."

Re:Own up to your reporting (1)

PHPfanboy (841183) | more than 7 years ago | (#17251792)

I'm waiting for the meme "Forrester, the beleaguered research company" to take root.

Personally, I think Forrester should stick to advice and should outsource all their research to "Apple should outsource hardware to Dell" Gartner.

It's tough being a research analyst - you can press your face to the window, you can hear the music and see the guests, but they'll never let you into the party.

Re:Own up to your reporting (4, Insightful)

MrMickS (568778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17252874)

Most people didn't refer to his report. Rather they referred to an article on The Register [theregister.co.uk] instead. The author of The Register article has a history of anti-iTunes store articles and an anti-DRM agenda. He took what he wanted from the report to back up his viewpoint. The real problem is the way that this was swallowed by the rest without checking the source themselves.

Sadly this seems to be the deal in journalism at the moment. Everything is sacrificed in order to be first to publish or, if not first then, not too far behind. Accuracy appears to be sacrificed in the race to publish.

Re:Own up to your reporting (1)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253638)

Sadly this seems to be the deal in journalism at the moment. Everything is sacrificed in order to be first to publish or, if not first then, not too far behind
I agree. At the newspaper I work for, we once had to reprint over 600 copies of our A-Section. Why? One of our reporters took a rumour about a missing girl as fact. Despite that most of us had dismissed it (as the story was being covered nationally), he chose to go with the story. When he was chewed out by the Publisher, he was venting at someone in our department, declaring "I'm not going to fact-check something like that!".

Everyone wants the big story, whether it's true or not.

Re:Own up to your reporting (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248616)

A sample size of 1000 isn't necessarily inadequate... it depends on how much variance there is in the population and how big a change you're seeing. Those factors are normally summarized with a p-value, indicating how likely you are to be wrong.

Naturally they didn't collect enough data to calculate a p-value... THAT was their mistake. Of course, nobody seems to do that, so really, it's par for the course.

Re:Own up to your reporting (4, Informative)

wrook (134116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249186)

Maybe this is obvious to people and maybe this isn't, but I thought I'd just clarify this in more standard lingo.

The sample size you need to take for doing the study is dependent upon the probability that you expect the event to occur. So for example, out of 1000 random purchases, how many do you expect to be iTunes purchases? Most people buy a lot of things on their credit cards. So my guess is that only maybe 5 out of 1000 purchases would be iTunes purchases. The rest would be clothes, gas, groceries, restaurants meals, movies, gifts, etc, etc, etc.

Let's say I'm right. If the expected value is 5 out of 1000, what are the odds that I might find 6 or 4 purchases in that sample? Well, depending on the distribution, it's not going to be that unusual. Remember, the *average* number you find will probably be about 5. If you actually look at 1000 random purchases, the actual amount you find will vary.

So you might find 4 or even 3 with a pretty high probability (don't know off the top of my head what that probability is -- especially since I don't know the distribution of the data). So you have a pretty high probability of reporting something like 0.3% of purchases are iTunes purchases, when the real value is 0.5%. That's a *huge* error.

But as others have said, the guys that do these studies know their stats. They don't put out crap reports by accident. They are intentionally misleading. Any reputable report that is based on statistical analysis will give you the error bars (i.e. + or - 5% 9 times out of 10). If this report had done this it would have said something like 65% reduction in sales +- 10% 1 time out of 10 (i.e. they aren't confident about their interval) or 65% reduction in sales +- 150% 9 times out of 10 (i.e. the error bars are totally crazy). And then it would be obvious the study was totally bogus.

Note: All numbers I've used are fictional. I took stats 20 years ago and I *really* don't remember any of the actual numbers...

Re:Own up to your reporting (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249992)

Problem is, you have to know that critical "how many purchases are iTunes purchases" value.

The proper place to start is by taking last year's data (or last month's, or whatever) and measuring that value, then measuring it again today. Then you can ask the question whether iTunes sales have changed or not. Once you've shown there's a high probability that they've decreased (that might take ten samples, or it might take millions), THEN you can talk about how much they've decreased, and what sort of error bars go on that value.

According to the original story they DID that, collecting data from 27 months... the difference between +80% and -60% is pretty huge... either they didn't do a simple t-test on their data, this was a VERY rare fluke or they decided to release their numbers anyway.

It definitely sounds like they were paid for their result... I wonder if maybe they didn't expect someone with much better data to come around so quickly to slap them down.

I also like the quote in the article about iTunes 1 billion dollars in sales not making up for the 2.5 billion dollar decrease in CD sales. Sounds about right to me. I doubt I'd purposely pay for more than a third of most albums.

Re:Own up to your reporting (1)

lelitsch (31136) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248826)

I think he should loose his job over something like this. They put out data that clearly bordered on fraudulent--if the sample size and method you quote is correct. Unfortunately, the report is not public, so I can't verify that. He should even more loose his job over the blog posting: Hehe, this is very funny, not our fault at all, it's everyone else who's wrong. Screwing up is one thing, gloating about it and blaming everybody else, including his customer, is another.

Now, most analysts are completely wrong some of the time (Gartner's and IDG's projections on the Itanuim come to mind), but this is just about the first time that I've seen any analysts doing the Nanananana Dance after being caught out.

And if he really belived that his sample and methodology--again, as described by you--is valid, someone should revoke his statistics degree and publically whip all his instructors.

Re:Own up to your reporting (-1, Offtopic)

steve_bryan (2671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249116)

I think he should loose his job...
He should even more loose his job...


The spelling of the correct word is LOSE. I'll repeat that: L O S E. Loose is a word with a significantly different meaning. Lose and loose are not interchangeable. The battle over your, you're and their, there, they're is lost but do we have to LOSE the distinction between lose and loose? That single 'o' may look lonely but it is correct. Lose the extra 'o', please.

Re:Own up to your reporting (1)

Sam Ritchie (842532) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249344)

I never understood why Webster didn't replace 'lose' with 'looze' while he was busy mangling, sorry, standardising the English language - I suspect you Americans would have much less trouble with the word if he had.

Incidentally, my favourite example of this nugget is the IIS 6.0 restart dialogue, warning me that I will 'loose' all current sessions if I proceed. I guess it could technically be correct...

Re:Own up to your reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17253256)

Maybe he wrote that IIS dialog. (note: I must be a silly american dropping that superfluous 'ue')

cut him loose (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249536)

to find another job to lose

Re:Own up to your reporting (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17252212)

I think he should loose his job over something like this.
Why should he ? His PHB told him to write a report showing that iTMS sales were plumetting and he did. He did his job as instructed. It did require a bit of creativity, but it's not any different than any other job in marketing.

Re:Own up to your reporting (3, Insightful)

kaleth (66639) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248992)

Did you actually read the article? I'm not saying you should be banned from posting again over this one, but this should be a reminder of how important it is to have a clue before commenting. You clearly neglected to do any fact checking yourself. From the blog:

"Our credit card transaction data shows a real drop between the January post-holiday peak and the rest of the year, but with the number of transactions we counted it's simply not possible to draw this conclusion . . . as we pointed out in the report."

Seems to me like a pretty clear admission that the sample size is too small to be reliable. He took the data he had available, analyzed it, and presented the results while noting the deficiencies in the method. Doesn't sound much like fraud to me. That's just grade school reading by the way...

Re:Own up to your reporting (1, Redundant)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17250130)

Ah, but if you read what I wrote, you would note that I said "In my business......If you present data or a theory with the suspicion that it is incorrect, that is fraud in my line of work. Note that I said "in my line of work". So, I stand by what I said. If one were to conclude that they did not have the appropriate data, then why would they report it in the first place?

Re:Own up to your reporting (5, Insightful)

lendude (620139) | more than 7 years ago | (#17250304)

That sentence you quote is having it both ways:

"Our credit card transaction data shows a real drop (my emphasis) between the January post-holiday peak and the rest of the year, but with the number of transactions we counted it's simply not possible to draw this conclusion . . . as we pointed out in the report."

There is no way that he can use the words "...real drop..." in the same sentence as "...it's simply not possible to draw this conclusion...". Whilst those who uncritically took the information from this 'research' and used it (doubtless with some sensationalistic agenda in mind) deserve scorn, that very sentence itself demonstrates the research to be nothing more than PR to flog the thing at $249.00 a pop. If you take out the words "real drop" and substitute "no meaningful change" then this report was clearly worth fuck-all: at least in terms of the author's now visible desire to have something sexy to sell!

You're taking it out of context (1)

shaneh0 (624603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253748)

Maybe I'm an exception, but it's obvious to me that when he says "Our credit card transaction data shows a real drop between the January post-holiday peak and the rest of the year" he's talking about his sample data. That, in their sample, there is a "real drop" in the number of transactions. He then ackonowledges that, based on their data, they couldn't draw the conclusion that iTunes sales, as a whole, experienced the same "real drop."

Can the editors while your at it. (2, Interesting)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 7 years ago | (#17252996)

Seems to me like a pretty clear admission that the sample size is too small to be reliable. He took the data he had available, analyzed it, and presented the results while noting the deficiencies in the method. Doesn't sound much like fraud to me. That's just grade school reading by the way...

So in other words, he knew from the beginning that he was spewing out bullshit. The article never should have gotten past the editors. One can argue back and forth whether the journalist should be disciplined, I'd argue for it and for an investigation of possible conflict of interest, but there's no way the editors should have let the article through as it stood. They should have been canned.

Re:Own up to your reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17249054)

Why do you think that the Forrester report had unintentional errors. It seems to me we can follow our old formula:

1. Make fake story about iTunes sales.
2. ???
3. Profit!

Except that ??? now means "buy lots of Apple stock when the price bombs."

Sample size was probably ok (2, Informative)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249506)

Actually, the sample size of 1,000 was probably fine, or at least it would have been if they had used a truly random sample of credit cards. However, it is evident from their results, that they didn't. The failure was in trying to extrapolate results from data that wasn't statistically valid.

Re:Own up to your reporting (5, Informative)

dcollins (135727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17250080)

"Seriously though, did you *really* think that a sample size of just over 1000 purchases on credit cards obtained through a back channel source is a reliable sample size for the number of iTunes purchases?... Thats just high school statistics by the way..."

I'm a college professor of statistics. I don't think you can actually quote a high school statistics book which says that sample size is too small. In general, a sample size of 1,000 gives 95% confidence that your result is within +/-3% of the actual result. This is *regardless* of population size - that's how statisatics work, due to the Central Limit Theorem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_size [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_limit_theorem [wikipedia.org]

Now, the first thing that pops into my head is why only credit-card purchases? And even more fundamentally, why would the same people need to buy music, after they just went on a music-buying spree? I would think the opposite. That was the thing that made me skeptical of the report yesterday in the first place.

Re:Own up to your reporting (2, Informative)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17250380)

You are focusing on the number when I should have put the emphasis on how the sample was selected. how about "did you *really* think that a sample size of just over 1000 purchases on credit cards obtained through a back channel source is a reliable sample size for the number of iTunes purchases?..."

As one professor to another I am sure you also teach sampling error and experimental design, right? Additionally, it should be noted that the actual samples used for the analysis out of the total records pulled was less than 200. What does that do to power?

Re:Own up to your reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17251320)

1000 is a good sample if you ask "what is the chance that random person has property X". It will give you 5% acuracy. But you cannot use it to study trends in some relatively rare condition. If you sample 1000 people one year and 5 have some disease and take another 1000 next year and find 8, it does not mean that the disease is spreading, or at least it is not a strong evidence.

That's not the case for rare phenomena (4, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17251482)

The 1/sqrt(N) 95% confidence interval is only safe for common phenomena. That is, if the frequency with which you measure something is in the 10%-90% range (or thereabouts). As you get to either extreme, the confidence interval remains the same, but its accuracy in terms of raw numbers decreases.

For example, if your sample is 1000, your 95% confidence interval is 1/sqrt(1000) = +/-3%. So if your 1000 samples showed 250 occurrences, you would know that it's 95% likely that the frequency of occurrence is between 22% and 28%. So the real frequency could be between 220 occurrences or 280 occurrences per thousand. No big deal for year to year comparison purposes. Worst case a 50% drop in sales is measurable because one year you could've been low (220), and the next year high (280/2 = 140), and the change is still statistically significant (outside your confidence interval).

For rare phenomena, this runs into a problem. Say the frequency of occurrence is 0.1%. You take 1000 samples and you measure 1 occurrence. The neophyte statistics student will say "Cool, I meansured 1 occurrence +/- 3%, so I have 95% confidence that the actual rate of occurrences is between 0.97 per thousand and 1.03 per thousand." Unfortunately, that's wrong.

The confidence interval is based on the percentage you measured. Your confidence interval says there's a 95% chance that the actual frequency of occurrence lies between 0% and 3.1%. There is a huge, huge difference between 1 incident in a thousand and 31 incidents in a thousand, especially if you're trying to compare between two samples. One sample (year 2005) you might get 25. Next sample (year 2006) you might get 5. These are both within your confidence interval, but if you're not careful you would erroneously conclude that you have 95% confidence that sales plummeted to just 20% that of the previous year.

Put simply, if you want to accurately measure rare phenomenon, your sample size has to be large enough that your confidence interval is significantly smaller than the rate at which that phenomenon occurs. If iTunes sales account for 0.1% of all credit card sales (which I think is a very high estimate) and you want to compare year to year changes, you probably want an accuracy of at least 1/10th the 0.1%, or a margin of error of +/- 0.01%. Your sample size needs to be large enough that your confidence interval is around the 0.01% range. That is, you need a sample size of a 100 million credit card transactions.

Re:Own up to your reporting (2, Informative)

Evil Dave Letterman (967729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17250114)

1000 would be borderline statistically insignificant. If you read the post, he actually admitted that out of those, he only really used 181. Less than two hundred users out of 6 million!? And he has the nerve to blame everyone else for "misreporting" his findings? Saying you had any significant findings in a pool that ridiculously small, without any research into those customers' other possible methods for puchasing, is ridiculous.

Re:Own up to your reporting (2, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17251422)

Well, that is why people should be responsible for their reporting.

Dude, it's a think tank "report." They deal in the amorphous and write it in weasel; 'cause it's a living paid for by the brainless. Put it under a rhetorical microscope and there's little there to be responsible for.

The real title of this story should be "Think Tanker admits he shits for money."

KFG

Everyone knows (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17248556)

Zune is an iPode killer...

*Yawn* (1)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248570)

Sounds like just one more example of one's desired conclusion ultimately altering the testing conditions and results to match. Seems to be almost a disease in this country.

Re:*Yawn* (2, Funny)

SoLoman33333 (1014093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248728)

Ah yes, truthiness. How I've missed thee...

Re:*Yawn* (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248852)

Sounds like just one more example of one's desired conclusion ultimately altering the testing conditions and results to match. Seems to be almost a disease in this country.

Anywhere there are numbers, there is going to be a group of people wanting reinterpret them. This is classic sales approach. Reminds me of the advert I saW the other day: "we will pay the first three months for you", when in actual fact they are just paying the equivalent of the amount they jacked the price up by - doh!

the field day was on purpose (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248592)

I think it's obvious he posted that on purpose to give the media an excuse to run another round of "piracy is killing the music industry!" and then cleared it up later, which btw also results in more people paying attention to the actual truth that they're doing better so people feel more inclined to use their growing service. Who the hell runs a sample size that low anyway? And is it just a coincidence that because of the low sample size, the results were so drastically different than what's really going on? Survey says....no

ComScore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17248628)

You mean these guys [forbes.com] ? I'm not sure we should take this report at face value.

Not shit really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17248670)

2 words..

No shit.

ComScore (4, Informative)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248692)

ComScore [slashdot.org] . With a reputation like theirs, it must be true!

Re:ComScore (2, Funny)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248774)

Well, they if anyone would know, wouldn't they?

Re:ComScore (1)

gordgekko (574109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248902)

Can someone mod TheRealMindChild down? Truth isn't allowed on Slashdot.

Re:ComScore (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17250446)

I personally am savoring the effects of the Reality-Disotrtion Field on this whole discussion. The Forrester Group published a report, based on a small sample of opt-in consumers, where they suggest that iTunes might have hit a plateau in music sales. They provide ample documentation of their method, and admit problems related to sample size.

Yeah, the press blows stuff out of proportion, as they almost always do with statistics. Apple's stock loses 3%.

Then, Comscore comes out with an equally ridiculous set of claims, based on a much larger sample size, but their method of "selecting" their sample includes bundling their software with spyware-laden crap and hoping their "valued partners" remember to put an opt-in screen in there.

So, read slashdot, and what do you get? A bunch of "haha! Those Forrester boys were wrong, and it's clearly because their sample size is not only small, but poorly selected!"

The really scary bit is that ComScore tells us even less about what's going on in iTMS, but a lot about future corporate strategies. Given ComScore's approach and "problems in the past", it is reasonable to hypothesize that there will be a strong, positive correlation between a "ComScore" PC and a "Spyware-infected PC".

Put yourself in some fancy shoes and think about what that means: if you pay for marketing through spyware channels: direct to desktop ads, redirectors and all that nasty stuff, you can score a double bonus: your sales will increase, but secondarily, ComScore's rating of your sales will go through the roof.

Why shouldn't he be faulted? (1)

HarryCaul (25943) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248712)


It's his story. If he didn't mean it, he shouldn't have put it out there.

Typical of these "research" companies, though. Completely typcial.

Re:Why shouldn't he be faulted? (1)

wass (72082) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248990)

Seriously. I mean, in a nutshell, this guy is complaining that reporters did substandard research on his own substandard research.

Re:Why shouldn't he be faulted? (1)

MyNameIsEarl (917015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253808)

Seriously. I mean, in a nutshell, this guy is complaining that reporters did substandard research on his own substandard research.
Seriously, if this guy was in a nutshell wouldn't he be complaining about being in said nutshell and looking for a way to get out of it.

liars, crooks, and analysts (4, Insightful)

joe_bruin (266648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248718)

Technology sector analysts, the likes of Forrester and Gartner, are essentially paid mouthpieces for their biggest clients. Whether pumping your own products or badmounthing the competition, you can count on these guys to earn their money with totally bogus conclusions.

Find a big analyst company that will admit that Itanium is a colossal disaster, that businesses don't want and don't need Vista, that HP's supply line trouble and incompetent management are sinking the company (particularly during the Carly years), that Oracle is terribly insecure. You won't, because they all have contracts with Intel, Microsoft, HP, Oracle, etc. But they won't hesitate to beat up on Sun (how many times have they called for McNealy's resignation), AMD, Apple, and predict their doom*, and others that don't spend the kind of money on various analysis contracts.

So sure, iTunes sales are collapsing (according to Forrester), but nobody will call Zune a turd. It's all in a day's work.

*disclaimer: I might be considered a fanboy of one of these companies, and it's not Apple

Re:liars, crooks, and analysts (3, Funny)

badonkey (968937) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248772)

I might be considered a fanboy of one of these companies, and it's not Apple

You're a fanboy of Forrester and Gartner, too?!?

iTunes sales up! (1, Funny)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248758)

I knew this... I purchased a few TV Shows over the iTunes this year, 3 to be exact. So I estimate that iTunes grew by like at least 300%.

Re:iTunes sales up! (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17251688)

But last year you didn't buy any TV shows over iTune - so their TV Shows department must have grew by 3/0 * 100% (and I don't remember what 3/0 is, even if it was reported on Slashdot)

fuckeR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17248760)

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Gift Cards (4, Insightful)

Foerstner (931398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248770)

For that matter, the Forrester data was based on credit card payments on the iTunes Store.

It totally ignored the little lime-green $15 gift cards that litter the checkout stands of every Target, Best Buy, CVS Pharmacy, and Kroger in the US. Each one of those is 15 songs, and fifteen purchases that don't register as credit card transactions.

Re:Gift Cards (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248914)

Unless you buy them with a credit car....

Re:Gift Cards (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249314)

While the poster wasn't clear, I believe he was trying to indicate that they don't show up as ITMS credit card transactions -- they are just generic retail transactions and could be from any number of products available at those stores.

See Spyware IS useful after all! (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248778)

comScore is also known for installing spyware to monitor all traffic (Market Research Company Secretly Installs Spyware [slashdot.org] )

Which is apparently ok because they are getting REAL data from it!

The only part that matters. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17248816)

...based on a random sampling of 2,000 credit card accounts...


I ask again: from whom did they get this data?

Is buying, selling, or redistributing such data a crime in the US, or CA in particular?

If not, why not? I'd like to make it crime with a nasty punishment.

If so, has the investigation started yet?

Grrrr.

from Josh Bernoff's blog (5, Insightful)

defy god (822637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248848)

He concludes with this statement in his blog:

"Finally, a word for Apple. Apple is extremely stingy with information about their business and public comment. Their unwillingness to comment on the record or off about anything they're working on or any industry results beyond the basic statistics fuels speculation, pro and con, from their supporters and detractors. In the research business we like facts -- and every other technology company is more open with them. So maybe it's time for Apple to share a bit more. When the real bad news hits -- and it's inevitable, no company gets everything right -- that openness would pay off."

To a degree, he has a point. With Apple's secrecy, articles like these are run without having all the facts. Sensationalism becomes rampant. Then he has to go and say "In the research business we like facts." All too often we read more about speculation rather than facts from these research companies. They complain secretive companies like Apple or Google don't give them enough information, but I wonder where the actual "research" in research business has gone.

Re:from Josh Bernoff's blog (3, Insightful)

wass (72082) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249034)

In other words, they're complaining that Apple doesn't regularly fly these guys out on a free 'vacation' to Cupercino, feeding them luxurious 5-star dinners and hosting them in 5-star resorts, to rave about their latest vaporware hype, like other well-known software and hardware vendors do.

Re:from Josh Bernoff's blog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17250332)

It's "Cupertino", not Cupercino.

I think you're melding the location of Apple's campus with a popular coffee drink. Speaking of which, I think it's coffee time...

Re:from Josh Bernoff's blog (1)

sbrown123 (229895) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249208)

With Apple's secrecy, articles like these are run without having all the facts. Sensationalism becomes rampant.

Sure, for a little while. But eventually people get tired of people yelling "the sky is falling". I think Google and Apple, keeping their business their business, is a good practice.

AAPL facts are available... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#17250538)

There is tons of real data available, without making stuff up. Look here, for example. It's just a few months old. [yahoo.com]

Here are some more facts; I know several people who own iPods who have never purchased anything from iTunes. Maybe someone should extrapolate from there and say that iTunes has zero sales.

Re:from Josh Bernoff's blog (3, Insightful)

MrMickS (568778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17252840)

Why research? Research is hard work. You have to check things and find corroborating evidence. Its much easier to get hold of a bit of data, slap it into a spreadsheet, draw a few graphs, then make statements based on what you see.

Seriously, why would Apple release real data to these people when they see what they do with the data that they can get hold of?

Look at the trends here ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17248890)

You can clearly see an up trend in the "iTunes" search:

http://www.google.com/trends?q=itunes&ctab=0&geo=a ll&date=all [google.com]

Now just imagine sales going along with that trend.

Re:Look at the trends here ... (3, Insightful)

Divebus (860563) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249398)

"Look at the trends here"

Yes, there was a massive spike last Xmas that hasn't been exceeded during the 11.5 months that followed. Indeed, if you draw a line from that peak to the present, iTunes queries are down from a year ago. It's proof positive - especially if you don't know a fucking thing about statistics!!

I can't find my ass with both hands around statistics and even I can see what's wrong with Forrester's report. So, Forrester my ass.

Oh noes! (-1, Redundant)

gordgekko (574109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248926)

Someone dissed Apple! Lets post a rebuttal story as quickly as possible!!!1!

So does that mean, given the recent story history, we'll 20 consecutive stories praising Microsoft's Vista? Oh wait, right...

Re:Oh noes! (-1, Offtopic)

gordgekko (574109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249462)

Ah, the "flamebait" moderation...when facts are too inconvenient to argue with, just mod 'em down! The funny thing is that I have been an Apple customer for 20 years.

Re:Oh noes! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17249758)

Ahehe. You earned that "Flamebait" fair and square, fat gekko

mod uP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17248942)

Maybe Bernoff shouldn't be pummeled (0)

DreadfulGrape (398188) | more than 7 years ago | (#17248998)

... but at least slapped about head and shoulders. I mean, c'mon... if I did a survey on online porn based on a random sampling of 2,000 credit card accounts, I might conclude that sales of digital whackery were crashing out. But any hairy-palmed monkey boy can see that's not the case.

In his blog Josh claims that the original Forrester report said "with the number of transactions we counted it's simply not possible to draw this conclusion." ...That they were clearly drawing.

Puh-leeze...

Itunes? (-1, Troll)

Enrique1218 (603187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249044)

Of the 1 billion songs Apple sold, Apple actually profitted 10-20 million from it over 3 years. Whether it is collapsing or up from the year before, what the fuck difference does it make to the bottom-line of a multi-billion dollar corporation? Quit posting this stupid ass shit. When iPod sales collapse, post it!!! Otherwise, try finding some good articles! Man, rant over and fire Zonk!!!

I have an iPod, but.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17249048)

I've never purchased DRM infested crap from iTunes and never will.

Re:I have an iPod, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17250786)

I felt sorry for Apple after yesterdays story and bought three songs last night from itunes. I feel so used!

Credit Card data (3, Interesting)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249072)

A few readers commented when the story was posted yesterday that they were wondering "How" the credit card data was obtained. It seemed from yesterday's story and the posts that Forrester Research had obtained credit card detailed transaction lists (w/o the credit card numbers, etc, I hope!).

So, I would like to ask, how was the data obtained and is this level of detailed information avilable for legal purchase? I'm just curious as to how much information is available about credit card puchases.

Re:Credit Card data (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249364)

I'm curious about that too. My credit card statement info should be between Me and my credit card company only (and if I had one, my accountant... and my spouse, again, if I had one). I sincerely hope that the credit card company is not giving away (or selling) detailed information. Of course, I cannot recall all of the stuff in the agreement, so maybe they can sell that info.

Welcome to America (3, Funny)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249792)

Where your information belongs to everyone but you.

This data was willingly given by the owner (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253886)

The reasearch firm runs an opt-in consumer panel. The members have to ask to join. The members were approach one day and asked if all of their credit card transaction could be monitored for a set period of time. The ones that agreed were the sample for this study. So the basis of the original research comes from the small fraction of a self-selected group willing to hand over their financial history.

Re:Credit Card data (1)

wqwert (968641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17250142)

I checked into this. Forrester's data came from its "ultimate consumer panel." This was an opt-in panel. This article explains how the panel worked. http://www.crm2day.com/news/crm/EpAEppEyVVlCsoqPmC .php [crm2day.com]

Forrester Research, Inc. announced the launch of Forrester's Ultimate Consumer Panel(TM) (Ultimate), a single-source, opt-in, highly secure panel that electronically captures online and offline behavior from a representative group of more than 10,000 US households.
This panel, by the way, was recently sold to another market research company.http://www.forrester.com/ER/Press/Release/ 0,1769,1101,00.html [forrester.com]

Sorry guys -- nothing scandalous. This was totally legit research. They didn't have access to *everyone's* data or even *your* data, just those who opted in.

He should not be pummled (2, Funny)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249084)

He should take a hit on credibility. He maybe should be fired. But I agree that physically injuring him is probably more than he deserves.

Re:He should not be pummled (1)

Zelucifer (740431) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249610)

You mean he should be fired for being misquoted? Or are you insinuating that his mention that "the sample size is too small to draw conclusions" doesn't count?

Re:He should not be pummled (1)

SageMusings (463344) | more than 7 years ago | (#17251922)

And you are willing to take this new article at face value? Hell, this one could be flawed, too.

Bad Data - Bad Report (0, Redundant)

SheldonW (897413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249146)

I bought iTunes music for 2 years on my Visa. Then switched to my AmEx at the beginning of this year. I'm not saying our boy, Josh Bernoff, was looking at my credit card... But what exactly was he looking at and how much room for error is there when using 2000 credit card samples to determine a pattern out of 1.5 billion song purchases?

You are SO wasting your money! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17249270)

You can get more good music than you can listen to with Soulseek,MP3 blogs and bit torrent.
There are other ways to get it too!
iTunes Napster and AllOFMP3 and those other pay sites are a ripoff.Plus they don't have lotsa OOP vinyl rips.
No DRM high bitrate and free! What more could you want?

Mark-et Their Words (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249388)

I've been reading Forrester, Jupiter, IDG and other pundit research papers for over a decade. They're almost always just rationalizations of some preconceived notion, some foregone conclusion that their methodology reinforces. I don't know if they plan it, or if marketing people just can't tell science from "Tang". But I don't know why anyone reads these reports expecting anything but a blast of conventional wisdom.

Which is, of course, why everyone just takes what they write and run with it. That's the measure of success at marketing research peddlers. It's the CIO self-perpetuation. One reason why so little ever gets done right, but so much does get done without being called wrong. To blame their own market for taking them seriously when they ought not be is finally a whisper of honesty from these chattering weasels. I expect them to fix that in the next release.

Forrester's new Corporate Motto (0, Redundant)

murr (214674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249808)

"We're in ur cr3dit cardz... checking out ur iT00ns purchasez"

Testimony of Mr. Marc E. Kasowitz... (4, Interesting)

mpaque (655244) | more than 7 years ago | (#17249976)

From the testimony of Mr. Marc E. Kasowitz before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary:

One particularly effective illegal strategy involves the
following scenario: the short-selling hedge fund selects a
target company; the hedge fund then colludes with a so-called
independent stock analyst firm to prepare a false and negative
"research report" on the target; the analyst firm agrees not to
release the report to the public until the hedge fund
accumulates a significant short position in the target's stock;
once the hedge fund has accumulated that large short position,
the report is disseminated widely, causing the intended decline
in the price of the target company's stock. The report that is
disseminated contains no disclosure that the analyst was paid to
prepare the report, or that the hedge fund dictated its
contents, or that the hedge fund had a substantial short
position in the target's stock. Once the false and negative
research report -- misrepresented as "independent" -- has had
its intended effect, the hedge fund then closes its position and
makes an enormous profit, at the expense of the proper
functioning of the markets, harming innocent investors who were
unaware that the game was rigged, and damaging the target
company itself and its employees.


http://judiciary.senate.gov/testimony.cfm?id=1972& wit_id=5486 [senate.gov]

Student exercise: Compare and contrast with the movement of AAPL stock shares before and after this report came out.

Re:Testimony of Mr. Marc E. Kasowitz... (1)

Old Grey Beard (869804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253204)

...the report is disseminated widely, causing the intended decline in the price of the target company's stock...

It's also interesting that this "report" came out a couple days before December stock options expiration, right when options are the cheapest so any stock moves give the greatest profit. The SEC could investigate large block options transactions in the past week, but probably won't. Too many things to do before xmas, y'know.

ComScore vs Forrester? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17250356)

That's almost like choosing whether to get your truth from a sleaze bag or someone else's whore.

The "New Responsibility" (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17251414)

Welcome to the "New Responsibility" where NOBODY is responsible for ANYTHING that they do!

This guy isn't responsible for getting his data completely wrong on the iTunes story.

The government isn't responsible for getting it wrong about WMD, having enough armor for our troops, for Katrina relief efforts or for covering the defecit that they keep increasing.

The editor isn't responsible for his writer faking articles.

And Microsoft isn't responsible for all of the holes in their security.

Heck, I'm not even responsible for the spelling errors in this post! That's my keyboard's fault, obviously!

Yes, friends, welcome to the "New Responsibility." New from CronCo... and with it you get a Veg-O-Matic, a Chia Pet and a free iPod... IF you subscribe now............!

Operators are standing by, but YOU will be responsible for YOUR payments for those "free" goodies...!

And that's what the NEW Responsibility is really all about...

Lee Darrow, C.H.

Deja vu? Didn't this happen last year too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17251578)

Deja vu? Didn't this happen last year too? The Christmas shopping season press-push of an obviously flawed story claiming iTunes popularity was crashing? It seemed then a submarine [paulgraham.com] by someone to depress iTunes sales. Thinking back, maybe it also looked, from some of the details of the story, like the music owners were behind it? Anyone remember?

And now this? Has anyone looked into the research funding? And into how the press caught it?

Martha Stewart (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17251736)

Josh Bernoff, noted in his blog yesterday that they shouldn't be pummeled just because everyone took what he wrote and ran with it.


Unless he, or people he knows, bought stock in Apple after spreading that "information".

Ah statistics, the science of bullshit. (-1, Redundant)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17251950)

Yin and Twat.

I think we'll find out... (1)

mtec (572168) | more than 7 years ago | (#17252720)

who's behind this faulty report very Zune.

Secondary Reporting (1)

MrMickS (568778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17252816)

The origin of most of the down and gloom around iTunes sales was an article written on The Register (http://www.theregister.com) by Andrew Orlowski. Whilst looking around trying to find some beef behind the report I found article after article refering to the news and linking back to the article on The Register. I couldn't find any other article that linked elsewhere or that appeared to have read the Forrester report.

This shows two faults. The first is the lack of checking that goes on by web based services when reporting things, they publish first then look into things later if they get time. The second is the gullibility of the general public when reading things. "Its all over the web. It must be true!". The fact that these reports all refered back to the same origin, an article written by a reporter with a track record of bashing iTunes and an anti-DRM agenda, didn't matter. The consequence is a drop in share price as people panic on the news.

For myself, I waited for someone else to back up the story. As that didn't appear I discounted it as rumour.

Herd mentality + total ignorance = (1)

FrankieLiebkind (994212) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253238)

Yes, Orlowski likes to beat up DRM. But only The Reg and The Wall Street Journal were clueful enough to quote [wsj.com] the SoundScan report that shows digital song sales have stopped growing for everyone, not just Apple.

Is the 2006 collapse a trend? We don't know yet [theregister.co.uk] :

Speaking to The Register, Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff warned against extrapolating too much from the figures. It may reflect a seasonal bounce that hasn't yet manifested itself. However, it might not.

"There's no indication of enormous growth coming," he told us. "When you look at this alongside the SoundScan numbers, you may ask 'Where's the part were we're supposed to get excited?'."

The MSM notices the "collapse" but not the WARNING signs written all over it. The funds then read the MSM, and call Forrester in a flap. Forrester panics [theregister.co.uk] .

Meanwhile the Apple fanboys - last seen trying to jail Nick de Plume at ThinkSecret - say, "Nothing to worry about here, folks, move along..."

Can't the MSM do original research any more?

Wait, they did this *how*? (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17252862)

based on a random sampling of 2,000 credit card accounts,

Ummm... Now, I harbor no delusions that my credit card history really counts as a secret - Obviously my CC company has it and uses it to market bizarre crap to me, and they'd turn it over to the government without thinking twice about it.

But how does some guy just go and "randomly sample" 2000 cards' histories? If I wanted to validate his study, could I do the same?


Something doesn't seem right here, and I don't think most people would like the "how" either way.

RTFA: the credit card holders gave permission (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253800)

The credit card histories were selected from a pool of people that allowed the research firm to be copied on all credit card transactions for a given window of time. This should have set off alarm bells for anyone reading the report. By relying on only those willing to hand over a history of their financial transactions, they've already fundamentally broken any chance at having a both a truly random selection and a selection that is representative of the population at large.

This just in... (2, Funny)

Skyguard (940300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253840)

a new study shows that studies are not factual at all and are used as propaganda by large powerful companies.

And in another shocking revelation... (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253850)

...analysts have deduced that Apple's revenues from sales OS X are negligible compared to sales of Macs, and have concluded from this that Apple's death is imminent.

Well duh! (1)

Luscious868 (679143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17253932)

How stupid do you have to be to believe that a random sample of only 2,000 credit card accounts could show any kind of trend as it relates to iTunes sales. Only a small fraction of people with credit cards buy music on iTunes anyway. A random sample of 2,000 isn't going to show you any kind of trend when the the overall number of people who use their card for that kind of activity is so small. You'd need either need a much, much larger random sample or a targeted sample of likely online music buyers to determine any kind of trend. The fact that a report that is so obviously flawed could even get mentioned on a site like Slashdot is laughable. What a joke.
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