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About Langbourne Rust Research, Inc.


The company got its start with a series of audience reaction analyses for Children's Television Workshop (now named Sesame Workshop), based upon their pioneering development of a behavioral attention-measurement technique: the Distractor Method. This is the method that was highlighted in Malcolm Gladwell's analysis of children's television in his book, The Tipping Point.

At first, the business specialized in doing custom research projects for educational and entertainment public program producers. Later it broadened out to serve commercial TV and radio programming, print, advertising, new-product development, interactive software, website design and strategic marketing.

Our clients have included ABC, CBS, NBC, Sesame Workshop, The Young Filmaker's Foundation, The Educational Film Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society,, MRI, Sea World, The General Mills Radio Adventure Theater, Family Radio Programming, Siegel Productions, PBS, Quaker Oats, Hunt-Wesson, General Foods, Procter & Gamble, Lipton, McDonald's, Mead-Johnson, Hasbro, Matchbox, Lego, Disney Interactive, The US Forest Service, Walt Disney Records and numerous advertising agencies.

Research challenges faced and met

Throughout our history, we have placed a high priority on
observational research techniques and the study of spontaneous behavior.

How people act, unselfconsciously and in naturalistic settings, is a much more sensitive and reliable indicator of their thoughts and feelings than their consciously-mediated reports or after-the-fact recollections.

Until the mid 1990s, observational research was cumbersome to field, expensive and difficult to analyze. The advent of new digital technologies began to make it much more feasible. The main problem for researchers like us was that there was no commercially-available software available to manage it on computers.

So we began to write our own.  First was a program for doing distractor testing of TV material over a PC, then was one for doing on-site studies of viewer behavior as they watch programs at home, and one for observing studying website visitor behavior, and so on. To speed up our projects, we also wrote interactive survey software and analytical components that could tie into the observation-data modules without having to manually link them together. Every time our data collection needs had a new requirement, we wrote code to deal with it: paper-pencil forms, self-administered e-forms, item-rotations, graphing and charting, multiple data-entry devices, exporting to Excel, etc.

In time, a cluster of easily-customizable data tools had evolved which could handle many of the data-collection challenges faced by this company that was in the business of conducting a great variety of projects under severe constraints of time, personnel and budget.

From in-house software into distributed product

Based on the strong recommendation of staff and clients, we decided to pull the pieces together and turn them into a package that other researchers could use.

The DataGater(r) billing system opened the door to making it economical to deploy and economical for other researchers to use. The result was FieldKit(r), a do-it-yourself data-collection platform for field researchers.


Picture of Langbourne Rust

      Dr. Langbourne Rust

Lang Rust graduated from Harvard College and holds a doctorate in Development and Learning from Teachers College, Columbia University (Where he learned Fortan, which proved useful, and how to punch computer cards, which did not)

After a couple post-doc fellowships from the Spencer Foundation in which he developed the creative guidelines for maintaining audience interest in the Electric Company and Sesame Street, he founded his own company in 1971, and has run it ever since.

Lang is a frequent speaker at marketing and research conferences and has published widely on how to do effective research, communications and product-development for young people and their families


Papers by Dr. Rust may prove useful to professional and student field researchers with interests in media research, methodology, measurement, communications, education and elated fields.