little known by the public at large, Frank N. Magid Associates is
one of the most successful and influential television and entertainment
consulting companies in existence. Founded in 1957 by a young social
psychologist, the company has grown to over 300 employees and serves
clients around the world. The first client was television station
WMT (now KGAN) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The company is still headquartered
in neighboring Marion, Iowa, but also has offices in Los Angeles,
London, and Kuala Lumpur.
Associates emphasizes custom research on audience and client attitudes
and behavior and this specifically tailored work is designed to
answer questions about business strategy. For local television,
the company operates in consideraly more than the top 100 markets
in the United States. In each market it provides consulting to one
television station. It also provides various services for each of
the U.S. networks and many studios and syndicators. Magid's services
have been extended to clients elsewhere in the entertainment industries,
such as record companies and movie producers and the company contracts
with any other businesses desiring marketing or survey research.
It is increasingly employed by international clients in television
and other media.
A significant part of Magid Associates' operations, indeed the work
for which they are most well known, is consulting with the news
departments of local television stations. The company became the
leading news consultant of the 1970s and controversy followed this
success. Magid is often credited--or blamed--for design of the "Action
News" format, and the sameness of local news broadcasts from station
to station and city to city is seen as a result of their advice
and that of similar news consulting firms. This sameness is produced
by the repetition of news presentation techniques. The formulas
include the use of co-anchors, a reliance on short news stories
with time for chatting and expressing emotional reactions between
items, an emphasis on graphics and live shots irrespective of their
contribution to the news story, special attention to the looks and
clothes of the news presenters, and the use of lighter stories and
positive news in a mix with sensational crime and accident stories.
the other hand, Magid Associates do consistently emphasize the importance
of local news. They claim that their client stations win more journalism
awards than their competitors and promote the generalization that
stations that lead their markets in news usually also lead in overall
ratings. This perspective provides a rationale for localism in a
business, network TV, that often ignores local issues. Certainly
the news presentation styles that Magid Associates advise have attracted
an audience and been successful for television as a business. And
from the financial perspective it is also important that local news
broadcasts include as many or more minutes of local advertising
time as any other programming activity. The news programs are a
major source of direct income, making the profitability of the local
news one of the most important factors in the business success of
a television station.
typical news consulting operation involves a meeting between a team
of consultants and the managment of a television station. The purpose
of this meeting is to identify the concerns of the local managers.
The consultants' primary research method is telephone surveying,
often with people who have agreed ahead of time to watch the newscast
in question and compare it with the newscast they regularly watch.
They may also mail video tapes to selected interviewees or use an
empty cable channel for trial broadcasts. The newscast in question
is subjected to expert critique and compared to the competitors'
newscasts, national trends, and leading newscasts in other markets.
Finally the consultants offer advice on anything from personnel
hiring and firing, through story selection and news script writing,
to set design, graphics, promotions, lighting, camera angles, on-camera
demeanor, clothes, make-up, and hair style.
similar research techniques, which emphasize data gathered from
audience members asked to make evaluative comparisons, they consult
on any aspect of television station operations of concern to the
client, on program evaluations or on marketing research. The basic
rationale of Magid Associates' consulting is that television stations
and other entertainment businesses will be more successful if they
attract and hold a sizeable audience; that the best way to do this
is to give the audience what it finds attractive; and finally, that
since audience members are not often articulate about what they
want, researchers and expert consultants are needed to identify
what the audience will find attractive.
Kevin. "Consultant Hired to Tinker with NBC-TV: 'Today' & News Under
Scrutiny." Variety (Los Angeles, California), 21 December
Firm Jumps from ABC to NBC." Broadcasting (Washington, D.C.),
2 January 1984.
M.L. "Making Research Relevant: Panelists Debate Role of Market
Information, Methods of Gathering and Analyzing Data." Editor
& Publisher (New York), 30 June 1990.
also Market; News,
Local and Regional