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Going for Gold: Bulletin Board Focus groups vs Live Online Focus groups

The athletes are limbering up on the starting line in the e-lympic stadium. In today's race we have the Bulletin Board Focus Groups (BB FG) and the Live Chat Focus Groups (LC FG).

The media has been whipping up a storm about the rivalry between these two consumer research competitors.

But what are their strengths and weaknesses? Let's take a look at their profiles:

Bulletin Board Focus GroupLive Chat Focus Group
Bulletin Board focus group athlete

Competing since:
Late 90s

Performance summary:
Fifteen years of competition have changed BB out of all recognition.

The larger of the two competitors, with 10 to 30 participants per group

Best times:
1 day - Several weeks


  • Allows more time for customers to reflect upon their answers.
  • Does not require constant commitment - participants, clients and moderators can dip in and out of the group.


  • Potentially less interaction between group members.
  • Harder to probe on key points.
Live Chat focus group athlete

Competing since:
Mid 00s

Performance summary:
A relative new-comer to competition.

Quick and agile, with 8-10 participants.

Best times:
60 - 120 minutes


  • Probe instantly on respondents points.
  • Get feedback fast.
  • Cover a lot of ground.
  • High levels of collaboration.


  • Participants need to dedicate an hour or two of their time.
  • Being able to type quickly is useful.

And the winner is... well, with an online research system like ours that enables both bulletin boards and live chat focus groups, everyone’s a winner!

2 Comments for "Going for Gold: Bulletin Board Focus groups vs Live Online Focus groups"

Jennifer Dale

InsideHeads InsideHeads

Hi Annette, great topic.

I do have one correction, though, if you'll be so kind. From my experience, online chat groups have been around since the mid-90's. Marian Salzman did the first ones I know of with her company Cyberdialogue back in 1992. Personally I've been moderating chat groups since 1997. The company I worked for at the time was using AOL chat rooms before developing their own chat facility with more controls.

One other point I'd like to make about online chat, groups have been trending larger - and not because of budgets, it's the dynamic that can be generated. 15+ participants in a chat group creates exciting simultaneous dialogue and maximizes the participant experience - only 8 participants can be a slow read if you're waiting for the next question. It has taken awhile for people to understand this.

The tools for running either type of virtual focus group have improved over the years, so moderating groups with 15+ is quite manageable.

Good luck in whatever methods you compare next!

Annette Smith

Intersperience Research Intersperience Research

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for the comment and for the useful clarifications re the background to online chat groups.

In our experience, more than, say, 12 participants per live chat group gets quite difficult to keep up with from the participant, viewing client and moderator perspective and doesn't provide a great user experience.

I'd be interested in learning more about the kind of tools you mention to improve experience in live chat groups with greater numbers of participants.



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