Read All About it

I once had the misfortune of needing new tyres on the old jalopy…

And while I was sitting in the tyre depot’s waiting room, I was surprised to learn that Ford were about to phase out their much beloved Escort and a young fellow by the name of Tony Blair was tipped to be the UK’s next Prime Minister.



Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but if you’ve ever sat in a waiting room of any kind, you can’t fail to have noticed that the magazines are very rarely current.

And that’s something that the medical profession have noticed too with The British Medical Journal recently publishing a study by a professor Bruce Arroll from The University of Aukland in New Zealand who set out to see exactly what was going on.

Motivated by his own frustration, Professor Arroll purchased 87 magazines, including non-gossipy ones like Time magazine, the Economist, and National Geographic, and gossipy ones, which he defined as having five or more photographs of celebrities on the front cover, and he subsequently placed them in a family practice office in Aukland.

Forty seven of the magazines were less than 60 days old, while the rest were between 3 and 12 months old. Each magazine was individually tagged and monitored twice a week. The purpose of the study was to find out if the new or old magazines disappeared first, to measure the rate of loss, and to determine if the type of magazine affected the rate of loss.

After a month, the results were analysed. 47% of the magazines had disappeared. 59% of the recent magazines had disappeared versus 27% of the older ones. The gossipy magazines disappeared at a rate fourteen times higher than the non-gossipy ones. Of the 27 gossipy magazines, only one was left.

The authors of the study quickly concluded that waiting room proprietors could save themselves money by only offering old copies of the Economist and Time magazine. It’s an interesting recommendation and one that could be improved by suggesting that they only have copies of magazines written in Swahili. Maybe supermarkets could embrace this principle and reduce their own ‘shrinkage’ by only stocking crap which nobody wants to buy. Or better still, clear the shelves completely – That’ll stop the buggers.

I don’t suppose doctors/dentists/hospitals/car tyre fitters are major marketing people though, so they’re probably not that interested in giving people a particularly better experience while under their care. Nor are they that interested in what the research actually means, But I am (oh really? Who would have thought?).

If you take just the fact that the gossipy magazines are fourteen times more likely to disappear from doctors waiting rooms than serious ones, what does that actually imply?

So what might it imply then? Is it obvious? Give it a bit of thought before scrolling down to see some of the things I think it might mean… It’s ok I’ll wait.



Well, maybe it could mean that…

Gossip magazines are generally more interesting than serious magazines.

Ill people are more interested in gossip magazines than serious magazines.

People who are interested in gossip magazines are more likely to steal than people who are interested in serious magazines.

People who are interested in serious magazines are wealthier and have no reason to steal magazines.

People who are interested in gossip magazines have worse health than people who are interested in serious magazines.

People value gossip magazines less than serious magazines and so are more prepared to steal them.

People value gossip magazines more than serious magazines and so are more likely to steal them.

Gossipy magazine fans are slower readers than serious magazine fans.

Doctor’s patients buy lots of serious magazines and have no reason to steal them.

Gossipy magazines are just more popular than serious magazines. The rate of disappearance is in line with sales volumes.

There are probably plenty more possible conclusions, (and I’d love to hear what you think they might be) and that’s the problem with most research of all kinds… it’s very very easy to jump on the most obvious of conclusions when the truth might be far more complex. Without further research, it’s impossible to conclude anything concrete from the study which might answer the simple question – why?

The truth may be a combination of several factors.

So I’m going to suggest that whenever you see the results of a study or piece of research, it’s worth giving serious thought to what it all might actually mean. Seizing on the first – and most obvious conclusions – can quite often send you down blind alleys and cause you to miss things that are a little more subtle but a lot more useful. Yes, you might return to the most obvious conclusion, but not without having picked up many other useful insights along the way.

And in the meantime…

In my own reception area, here at Localad Services HQ (the more popular of the two current uses for our dining room), I think I may have solved the problem of magazine theft completely by only having copies of this blog permanently displayed on the computer’s main monitor … available for all and sundry to read should they ever feel the need to venture thus far.


Having just checked, it seems that I appear to have more magazines here than when I first started writing this crap!

What can it all mean?


One thought on “Read All About it

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