IQ News: Closeup – Poll Position




E-Poll.com’s real-time polling gives e-businesses instant feedback.
Hooked on Phonics, a San Francisco-based learning company, wanted to gauge parents’ attitudes about their children’s reading, writing and math abilities. Studios USA, Los Angeles, coveted viewer response to the cast, storyline and feasibility of a TV pilot. Cruise411.com, a Philadelphia-based leisure startup, sought feedback regarding the market potential of shopping for cruises online.
Not too long ago, these companies would have employed traditional methodologies such as focus groups, field surveys and secondary statistics. Now they can call a growing list of online polling firms, including Gerry Philpott’s E-Poll.com.
As founder of the three-year-old Los Angeles-based permission e-mail polling firm, Philpott claims to obtain customized data more quickly and cheaply via the Internet compared to traditional venues.
“I looked at the Web and compared it with the [TV] syndication marketplace,” said Philpott, who oversaw affiliate relations with ABC TV in the 1980s. “I created E-Poll for the entertainment community and syndicate it as an overall [marketing] concept.”
E-Poll’s policy prohibits the release of any member data without the user’s authorization. Philpott says every E-Poll panelist must opt-in to be questioned. Respondents are also informed as to how and why they were selected to participate. “If a pollster can’t track [from where] it got your name, it’s not doing [an ethical] poll,” he said.
While the completion percentage of online surveys is greater than telephone surveys, each has the identical plus or minus 3 to 5 percent margin for error, according to the National Council on Polling.
A typical E-Poll involves a slate of 8 to 12 questions sent electronically to a panel of up to 500 people, culled from a base of 250,000 registered members. Clients can request panels based on demographic profiles.
To increase its membership base, E-Poll awards panelists 10 Express Points for each completed survey, which are redeemable for merchandise. Philpott hopes to have 1 million members by the end of the year. Competitors Harris Interactive, Rochester, N.Y., and Greenfield Online, Wilton, Conn., claim databases of 5.4 million and 1 million members, respectively.
E-Poll, which has seven employees, charges clients from $2,000 to $15,000 for an interactive poll, depending on panel size, length of survey and use of a content-specific CD-ROM. Venture funding is projected to add $2.5 million to the company’s coffers by year’s end, according to Philpott.
The company expects some 500 new clients this year, with about 40 percent in entertainment, 25 percent politics, and 35 percent ad campaigns and product launches. Clients include CBS/King World Prods., Money.com and Columbia/Tri-Star.
Unlike conventional online questioning, respondents chosen to preview TV pilots, commercials and ad campaigns are sent a CD-ROM, which is loaded onto their PCs, guiding them to a secure area on the E-Poll site. After entering a password, respondents watch the content and then take the survey. The client can get the data minutes later.
“A comparable cable survey with respondents watching a cable channel or video, would have cost about $30,000,” said Philpott. “And it would take about a week for the results.”
Philpott envisions E-Poll as a vertical interactive business-to-business model, intent on helping media clients reach other businesses or consumers with a variety of interactive tools.
Future plans include providing polling software that is compatible to wireless technology including cell phones, Palm Pilots and interactive TV.
Philpott believes online polling offers a unique one-on-one perspective that companies such as Stamford, Conn.-based AC-Nielsen can’t. “Nielsen will do averages based on a group,” he said. “We want to find out what’s going where, what [users are] doing about it, and what are their thoughts about it. If you can get someone to click and get involved, you just made it interactive. That’s our goal: Get people involved so [clients] can really find out what they think.”