GfK, misinformation, and redefining continents

Two days ago we ran a story. This story. From that point and until now, dozens if not hundreds of blogs ran it too. And while we were all our usual trigger-happy blogger selves, something was very, very wrong about that story and the manner it was described in by most of the blogs that covered it.

See, the point was that Android overtook Symbian to become Asia’s No.1 smartphone OS for the first time. And while that is quite an achievement, it doesn’t seem implausible, right? It doesn’t even seem improbable. Android is growing like crazy, even if we ignore the US market for a second. It has reached the second position worldwide. I’ve said it myself that by this time next year, it may very well be the No.1 smartphone OS worldwide.

So what could possibly have been wrong?

A simple fact: GfK has redefined geography. And we all fell for it.

What do the geniuses at GfK mean when they say Asia? Well, you may want to sit down for this one. You are? OK, here you go: Asia, for GfK, is made out of the following countries or territories: Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

That’s it. Seriously, that’s it. If you’re geographically challenged, you may want to take a peek at the actual list of countries in that continent that Wikipedia gladly provides here.

But just for a second, let’s focus on only two of the missing countries. So pop quiz: which are the two most populous countries on Earth? And are they in Europe? America? Africa? No, you say? That’s right. In GfK’s world view, China and India aren’t part of Asia.

I could just stop here. And I hope you got the point. You can easily spin numbers to make them ‘say’ whatever you want to say. Why would GfK do this? I don’t know, and honestly don’t care. They never mention something like “GfK’s Asia region” or anything similar that would make any reader of their ‘results’ at least consider that they’re artificially redefining continents. No, it’s “Asia” all along until the last but one paragraph, in which “Northern Asia” and “Southeast Asia” are also mentioned. Which, together, make up “the whole of Asia”. I’m not making this up. I wish I was.

So, for GfK, India and China aren’t in Asia. Neither are (literally) dozens of other countries. Furthermore, if you’re going to split their Asia into regions, it would be made up of only two: northern Asia and southeast Asia. That’s it. No west, no center, no southwest, no nothing else.

The small/fine print says as much. Only, in the rush to get a big headline out, no one bothered to check that. Because no one actually cares anymore. Symbian, while still being the No.1 OS by a large margin, is ‘dead’ to many US-centric and Western European publications. Dead. Why? Because their world view only includes North America and Western Europe, similarly to how GfK’s world view only puts 9 countries in Asia (if you’re counting, keep in mind that Hong Kong and Macau are not countries).

The truth is you can’t trust GfK with these things anymore. You simply can’t. They now seem to operate solely to get pageviews. Tuesday was the day that marked GfK’s official entry into linkbaiting territory. And boy was the joke on us.

Up until now.

Now, the joke’s on them.

From this point on, I am not going to report on ANY ‘data’ that comes out of GfK. I hope my colleagues will join me. This isn’t a big boycott maneuver or anything like that. It’s more like common sense. Like the common sense of knowing which continent India and China are in. That is all.

This post was prompted by comments made on our original post by mirmit and Mark Anderson. So thank you guys for pointing this out, in yet another example of how our commenters are smarter than yours.

And I really am not saying that there’s an anti-Symbian conspiracy going on here. I don’t know what GfK’s reasons were, but in any case, you don’t just redefine the meaning of the word Asia with only a teeny footnote to attest that you have. You just don’t.

As for the real numbers, who knows. Symbian may have already dropped to No.2 in Asia (the real Asia). But we just don’t know that yet. GfK has not told us that in Tuesday’s announcement. They told us that in nine countries and two territories, Android has become No.1. Fine.

This is not to defend Symbian. This is to defend facts.

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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  • Anonymous

    Most blogs just run with the story as long as they can get clicks.

    Thanks for doing basic journalistic fact checking.

  • Stuntman

    Good on you for clarifying this. Bad on GfK for publishing an article that they know (or at least should have known) to be misleading to readers.