Truisms about modern life are always a good bet if you’re a company looking to insert your product name into the headlines. Take this tale from the Telegraph:
TV viewers ‘spend two weeks looking for lost remote’ during their lifetime
It’s got to be one of the most irritating aspects of the technological age. Now a new study has revealed that looking for a lost remote is not only annoying but can also take up weeks of a television viewer’s time over the course of their life.
The average television watcher will spend more than two weeks looking for lost remote controls during their lifetime.
The average time spent searching per week was 5.35 minutes, which amounts to 278.2 minutes or more than four and a half hours a week.
The missing TV remote – it’s as classic a truism as poor airline food, people who cut in front of you in a queue and newspaper journalists who will blithely publish any old press release put in front of them if it means filling their quota of stories for the day (I’m looking at you, Alice Philipson of the Telegraph).
Leaving aside the clear typo in the fourth paragraph (we can safely assume that Alice actually means four and a half hours per year – but it would be interesting to see if that typo was also present in the original press release), it’s worth asking: how was this measured? Traditionally, these figures often come from the same method – an online poll which asked people to guess.
Think about it for a moment: how long did you spend looking for your TV remote last week? I’m sure you haven’t got a clue. But if you’ve signed up to an online polling company who will give you a small amount of money if you’re able to give an answer, I’m sure you’d be willing to take a punt.
This, certainly, was the story behind another ‘how long do you…?’ study, published in August 2011, which announced that the average kiss lasts less than 5 seconds – having taken part in the survey myself, I know that the question which produced this very headline was simply “How long does an average kiss with your partner last, in seconds”, with a range of multiple choice answers.
As a self-reported measure, given by a sample set incentivised to spend a minimal amount of time estimating, it’s wildly unlikely to bear any resemblance to reality.
Then again, resemblance to reality isn’t the point – as ever, with PR stories, the only point is that the company name makes it into the newspaper; everything else is strictly secondary at best. In this case, the company name placed into the Telegraph for you to read is Netvouchercodes.co.uk:
Over the course of an average lifespan, the number of hours rockets to 371, according to the study by discount site netvouchercodes.co.uk.
Pushing their company ahead of the January sales, Netvouchercodes.co.uk were relatively busy on January 2nd, with another press release (presumably from their PR agency London PR) appearing in the Daily Mail announcing yet more valuable ‘research’, yet again totting up the time we spend doing a particular activity:
British people spend NINE HOURS a day (that’s 30 YEARS of our lives) staring at screens…and more time online than ANY other nation in the world
– Research comes as internet celebrates its 30th birthday
– Screens include computers, televisions, mobiles and tablets but not cinema
Just as the internet celebrates its 30th birthday, it emerges Britain is the nation most obsessed with the world wide web.
The average UK resident now spends nine hours every day glued to a screen – a shocking total of 30 years throughout life – and more time online than the inhabitants of any other country.
Once again, given the online poll behind this story, we can safely dismiss any results as being self-serving and inaccurate – indeed, if they happen to be right it’s far more likely to be the effect of chance and common sense than methodical survey methodology and commitment to truth. This is, after all, an advert.
One final note – it’s worth a look at past stories Netvouchercodes.co.uk have felt happy seeding into the press, and in particular this charming effort in The Daily Star:
HAPPY NEW YEAR, I WANT A DIVORCE
THOUSANDS of stressed Brits are expected to download internet divorce vouchers over Christmas.
Web offers start at just £65 for a quickie split, while special codes are available that knock 20% off legal fees.
New Year is peak time for married Brits to separate after days holed up together at home.
Lawyers are expecting a bumper January with cash woes predicted to expose cracks in relationships.
Steve Barnes, of NetVoucherCodes.co.uk, which is offering the deal until January 12, said: “December and January are by far the busiest months in terms of the number of people searching for a divorce code.
“The peak days are the two weeks after Christmas Day when we are expecting to see thousands of codes accessed.”
Netvouchercodes.co.uk – the online voucher site that wants you to find your remote and leave your wife.