Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How big is the Golden Dawn market part 2

One of the things that I did not touch upon in the previous part was how difficult it was to nail down a number for the Golden Dawn market size. (I ignored the issue because I lacked the time to address the issue.) A lot of my readers pointed out how using the forum membership numbers was an unreliable method.

Let's be honest here---all methods of figuring out the potential Golden Dawn market are unreliable.

Having both management and self-employment experience, I am not surprised by this. In fact, it is expected. There is an old saying that most statistics are made up. That includes estimates about the potential market for products.

The worst estimate I know of involving the Golden Dawn market does not even have to do with the Golden Dawn itself. A decade ago (or has it been longer?) someone decided to figure out the size of the Wiccan community.

(My smarter readers are already shaking their heads over the "Oy vey" that is coming.)

So how do you do this?

The Wiccan community shares many of the same characteristics that makes figuring out the size of the Golden Dawn community so hard. One is that most Wiccans do not openly reveal their membership. They are a hidden sector of the population. Part of this is done for simple economic and social survival issues---after all, there are a few Christians who believe that Wiccans are Satanists and need to be "cured" of their religion.

What the researcher did was to take a survey of Wiccans who were willing to admit that they were Wiccans. In this survey, they were asked multiple questions, including the question "Do you own a copy of Israel Regardie's Golden Dawn?"

Oy.

From this answer, the researcher extrapolated an estimate for the total Wiccan population using the total number of copies sold of Regardie's book.

Oy vey.

There are a few problems with this method.

First, not everyone who buys a copy of Regardie's Golden Dawn is a Wiccan. In fact, I suspect that there are more Christian buyers of Regardie's book than Wiccans. Even using an actual Wiccan book would not have worked---for instance, a book by Scott Cunningham (for I have seen Christians buy these to learn more about "the enemy").

(The things you learn behind the counter of book stores and occult shops.)

Second, the way that the figure was calculated totally ignores the nature of the overall book market.

(At this point in time, one needs to remember that I used to be involved in the used book market. I started out as a collector, and then spent several years as a specialized dealer.)

For instance, the statistican ignored the collector market. There are some collectors out there who collect every edition from select authors. So out there someplace is someone who has every edition that Regardie ever published.

(I own three different editions...)

Also ignored are those people who actually used the book. Some of these people are not the ideal book collector. Their copies are dog-eared, stuffed with bookmarks, and have wax dripped on them; the covers of the book may be falling off. Some of these people have brought additional copies of the book to replace their worn-out copies.

(...in various stages of disrepair.)

Now, looking at my estimate based on Yahoo forum membership, one should note some of my assumptions.

First assumption, there are some members who are members of multiple forums. In fact, some members are probably members of every Golden Dawn forum that they stumble upon. (I am not quite that bad.)

Second assumption, there are actually non-Golden Dawn parties who are members of Golden Dawn forums. In fact, I know one forum owner who invited a whole bunch of people from Thelemic, Wiccan and pagan forums to their GD forum---all to boost their GD forum membership numbers; it wouldn't be so bad, except that they generally do not approve of Golden Dawn posts from "rivals"---one sees a lot of posts that have absolutely nothing to do with Golden Dawn on their forum.

(By Golden Dawn parties, I mean people are actually interested in Golden Dawn.)

Third assumption, there are "sellers and dealers" mixed into the membership, those people who join forums just to send other members spam, who are just there to sell product. (Also see next point.)

Fourth assumption, people do not cancel their membership when they leave a forum, and some people have either lost their original account and created new ones, or have created sock-puppet accounts. Therefore, there are actually a bunch of dead and empty memberships floating in the overall figure.

Due to these assumptions, I mistrust all the membership figures of the Yahoo forums. Therefore, I took none of the membership figures at face-value (with one exception).

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of one's difficulties that one faces trying to estimate the potential Golden Dawn market size.

1 comment:

Ananael Qaa said...

The idea of using sales of particular books isn't completely nonsensical, but as you note the researchers didn't gather all the data they would need to come up with a decent estimate. For the Wicca example you would need:

A = The percentage of "Golden Dawn" buyers who identified as Wiccan (represented as a percentage, .01-.99).

B = The percentage of self-identified Wiccans who owned a copy of "Golden Dawn" (represented as a percentage, .01-.99).

C = The number of copies sold of "Golden Dawn."

Then the formula that you would apply should be (A/B) * C. As with all social science research, a high confidence interval depends on the sample sizes from which A and B are derived being as large as possible.

If you can't get a large sample size you can try to work the formula out with multiple books, do a scatter plot, and see if the data points appear to converge across many titles. If you can do this with a lot of books and don't run across many outliers, the average of those values could also give you an estimate that is more reliable than you might think.

But yeah, the folks who tried it out as you describe clearly weren't educated as far as how to do research in the social sciences goes.