The founder of the consulting and research firm that still carries his name, Magid was best known for his work in shaping national and local news. He died Feb. 5 in Santa Barbara, Calif., after a battle with lymphoma.
Frank N. Magid, a pioneer in the field of survey research who helped shape the modern media landscape, died Feb. 5 in Santa Barbara, Calif., after a battle with lymphoma. He was 78.
Magid and the company he founded in 1957, Frank N. Magid Associates, are perhaps best known for their work in the media industry, particularly in television.
Media executives and on-air personalities frequently noted that the face of television was largely created not in the media centers of New York and Los Angeles, but in Marion, Iowa, where the company was based.
It was Magid who, based on the research his company had conducted, recommended that CBS feature Walter Cronkite as a solo anchorman on the CBS Evening News, catapulting Cronkite to a highly visible and successful career.
He also played a key role in the development of ABC’s Good Morning America, which debuted in 1975, and helped to define the modern network morning show format and style.
Magid and his company developed the concept of early morning local newscasts, identified — along with Minnesota broadcaster Stanley S. Hubbard — the viability of satellite TV and conducted the first research on the viability of digital video recorders.
Arguably Magid’s most notable imprint on the media landscape was his creation of the “Action News” concept for local newscasts.
Prior to “Action News,” local evening news broadcasts generally featured a single news anchor reading stories while seated in front of a static background. Magid proposed a format that combined “hard” news with non-traditional features including health, consumer advice, and other subjects of particular relevance and interest to viewers; and one that utilized emerging video technologies to provide viewers with a fast-paced, highly visual newscast. The essence of the concept was news that was “everywhere, all the time.”
The first such newscast, in 1970 at WPVI Philadelphia, was an immediate success; WPVI’s newscast, which had been in distant last place, became the dominant newscast in the market, a position that it retains to this day. The format immediately took root across the country, and, in various forms, is ubiquitous in broadcasting.
Frank Magid was born on September 1, 1931, in Chicago. After serving in the Army during the Korean War, he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Iowa.
As a student, Magid merged his fascination with human behavior with the nascent statistical field of random sampling to lead the development of the new field of survey research.
In survey research, a researcher administers a carefully crafted set of questions to a randomly-selected sample of a larger population to obtain a highly accurate view of the entire population’s attitudes and opinions. As one of the first people to use modern survey research methodology for commercial applications, Magid gave birth to a world-wide industry that helps businesses better understand their customers’ needs and wishes.
Magid retired as CEO of Frank N. Magid Associates in 2002, when he was succeeded by his son, Brent, but remained chairman of the company until his death.
Magid was active in a variety of civic and charitable organizations. He served on the National Board of the Smithsonian Institution and was head of the International Advisory Board of Direct Relief International, a humanitarian medical relief organization.
Magid is survived by his wife, Marilyn; a brother, Gail, of Santa Cruz, California; sons Brent, of Minneapolis, and Creighton, of Washington, DC; and four grandchildren.