Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Accolades Can Be Misleading

As one who markets Durham as a destination, I know that DCVB is careful to vet accolades before we relay them. Even then, one or two get by us from time to time.

A few accolades are deceiving, like the recent so-called ranking of smartest cities by an online publication in New York.

Purportedly it was a ranking of cities. However, it was easy to spot something was up because the site listed this area by the name of the airport, Raleigh-Durham. There simply is no such city or metro area.

Because the author noted that they only ranked metropolitan areas of 1 million or more people, it was initially assumed they had used the massive Combined Metropolitan Statistical Areas (CMSAs) in which case Cary should have been added to the name for this area.

But it still didn’t make sense for a publication to confuse metro areas and CMSA’s, let alone cities.

The publication was surprised that instead of a “take the ranking and run” attitude, we were probing deeper about the methodology and nomenclature.

As it turns out, the ranking isn’t about cities, or metro areas, or CMSA’s. The author substituted the term “city” for a ranking of Nielsen DMAs or media designated marketing areas. So the ranking was actually for the 22 county Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville) DMA, which includes parts of three states and nearly 20% of North Carolina. They even admitted that they purposely called DMAs cities and didn’t seem to care about accuracy.

There were other issues beyond the fact that DMA’s aren’t really relevant for this type of analysis (it just means they all share the same television stations.) The site also measured intellectual environment by sales of non-fiction books in that DMA, which leaves out all the people who frequent public or university libraries. Hmmm…maybe not the best way to measure a region’s collective intelligence.

Comparing DMA’s truly centered around a metro area might make sense but it isn’t fair to mix in polycentric DMA’s like this one which have no dominant center and encompass many different cities and metro areas.

Durham gets its share of accolades…and yes, it’s nice to know that someone thinks this DMA is the smartest in the country, but please, if there is a next time, do all your readers a favor and don’t confuse things by referring to DMAs as “cities.”

It would be like us doing a ranking of all the news media outlets and calling it a ranking of magazines, as if they were the all same and it didn’t matter that some were TV or radio stations, newspapers and even online publications. I bet accuracy would matter then.

Accurate terminology matters just as much to cities, metro areas and to us, too.

1 comment:

Jeff Johnston said...

Your comments are always precise and appropriate. It is so nice to have a voice for Durham that gets it: Durham is a "smart" place to live and we don't need "Raleigh" as part of the name in order to be validated.


Jeff Johnston