In the Trenches With Chuck Moran, Manager Of Market Research, BURST! Media

Ever wonder when Web users are most apt to buy snack crackers, or how they might respond to a car lease offer? This week's In the Trenches subject doesn't have to wonder. In less than 24 hours, Chuck Moran, manager of market research at BURST! Media, can determine what thousands of visitors to the network's sites think of just about anything.

Moran

Basic Training
Despite years of experience in the research field, Chuck is continuously amazed by what he uncovers about the folks he studies. In 1990 he attained an MBA, focusing on market research. From there, Chuck moved from a position at a large research firm in Boston to a research management role at insurance provider Liberty Mutual, where he settled in for six years. In 2000, when a colleague who had previously left Liberty Mutual for BURST! came knocking, Chuck said goodbye to the insurance gig.

Daily Drills
Chuck wears a few hats. More than just a number-cruncher, he always starts his day by checking up on how ad campaigns running throughout the BURST! network of niche content sites are performing. Then he might move into a sales role, assisting the sales department by buffing up agency proposals and pitches with site survey data. BURST! conducts quick site visitor surveys to supplement proposals--and to help current advertisers better understand their target audiences, or to evaluate a particular Web site's readership. Chuck is responsible for crafting survey questions, implementing them, and harvesting the data.

"People think market researchers are number geeks. ... but I never want to be known as [a] number geek," Chuck emphasizes. "I want to be known as a marketer who knows how to do a standard deviation."

As part of their agreements with the network, site publishers are required to load surveys, usually consisting of around ten questions, onto their sites. And although the 39 million unique users who visit BURST! sites each month don't have to participate in those surveys, on an average day, 10,000-15,000 responses roll in. That's typically enough for Chuck to gather a projectable sample, even after scrubbing the data.

He calls it a "dream job" where no matter how discrete the inquiry (Do these people purchase Cheese Nips on Wednesday?), he'll have an answer soon. This month, he notes, the company's research focuses on social networking. Another current topic of study---clutter. "We're judging the impact that page clutter has on consumer interaction with brands," he explains.

Tough Battles
"I'm always running against the wall on time," laments Chuck, who often helps the sales team to turn proposals around in one business day. Knowing that adding relevant survey statistics to a proposal can give BURST! a leg up on the competition, the company often contacts advertisers and agencies with supplemental data after submitting proposals, "to add that frosting to it."

Base Camp
BURST! makes its home in an office park outside of Boston on "America's Technology Highway," Route 128 in Burlington, Mass. In the open office space, says Chuck, "There's a lot of energy," but the real action takes place in the parking lot, where a local hawk is known to lurk in search of prey. Chuck worries for the squirrels now that the pigeon population is almost depleted. "We've even seen a wild turkey walking through the parking lot," he adds.

Mission Possible
"Measurement is a huge issue," asserts Chuck, who believes that the interactive advertising industry as a whole needs to refine standards by defining what an impression is and who controls impressions. Until this is set in stone, argues Chuck, "we will always be backed into a corner in having to defend why something's done."

Still, he is proud of the strides the industry has taken in its short life. Citing firms such as aQuantive's Atlas DMT, DoubleClick, Dynamic Logic, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and, of course, BURST!, Chuck concludes: "From a research perspective, the industry can pat itself on the back. We did lot of work to demonstrate the vitality of the Internet and to show the value of the medium in a short period of time."

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