What Do We Really Know About Herta Herzog?

Exploring the Life and Work of a Pioneer of Communication Research

by Elisabeth Klaus (Volume editor) Josef Seethaler (Volume editor)
©2016 Conference proceedings 179 Pages


The book for the first time explores in-depth the life and work of Herta Herzog (1910–2010), an Austrian-American social psychologist. Herzog spent most of her working life in the United States, where she moved to in the 1930s, following her first husband Paul Lazarsfeld into migration and working with him at the famous Office of Radio Research in Princeton and Columbia. The chapters by scholars from the U.S., Israel, Germany and Austria show the amazing scope of Herzog’s work as both, one of the founders of empirical communication research and the "grand dame" of market and motivation research. Herzog crossed many borders, moving from Europe to the U.S. and back again, stepping over disciplinary lines as well as restrictions by gender.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Copyright
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Authors
  • Foreword Personal Memories from the Family
  • Introduction Herta Herzog: A Pioneer of Communication and Marketing Research
  • Lifelines—Herzog’s Life and Work
  • Herta Herzog and the Viennese School of Radio Research
  • Herta Herzog and the Founding Mothers of Mass Communication Research
  • Two Step Analysis: From a Lonely Kitchen to a Lively Living Room
  • From Listeners to Viewers: Herzog as the Founder of Qualitative Entertainment and Audience Research
  • The Discovery Process in Herta Herzog’s Research on Radio Daytime Serials. With an Appendix on the Invention of the Focus Group
  • “… And this I Called Image.” An Interview with Dr. Herta Herzog
  • Insights for the Mad Men—Why Herta Herzog is still an Inspiration for Advertising and Market Research
  • A Female Researcher but not a Feminist
  • Lessons from Herta Herzog’s Work for the History of Communication Research
  • Herta Herzog’s Publications: A Chronological Bibliography

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Many people have contributed to this volume. The engagement with Herta Herzog’s life and work was first inspired by Friedrich Krotz who initiated a series on “Klassiker der Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft heute” (“Classical Authors in Communication and Media Studies”) in the German-language journal Medien- und Kommunikationswissenschaft and asked Elisabeth Klaus for a contribution on this early pioneer of both communication and marketing research. This article was published in 2008. Both editors of the book organized a symposium on Herta Herzog in Vienna in 2011, sponsored by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Due to the manifold contributions to the symposium the breadth and depth of Herzog’s work became obvious, thus providing the impulse for this volume. We like to thank all the authors coming from different disciplines and countries for their valuable insights and excellent contributions to this book and also for their patience with the lengthy process of its publication. This would not have been possible without the support of the Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies at the Austrian Academy of Science that allowed for a thorough proofreading and editing: In this regard, we are indebted to Rosmarie Hergouth, BA, and Justine Jardin for doing an excellent job on the manuscript. Without the financial support provided by Prof. Dr. Heinrich Schmidinger, rector of the University of Salzburg, and by the Stiftungs- und Förderungsgesellschaft of the University of Salzburg, the book could not have been printed.

We are especially indebted to Herta Herzog’s relatives Ursula und Dr. Peter Ostendorf, who kept in close contact to her after her return to Europe, and to Prof. Gerhard Kleining, her close friend. They spurred us on by their enthusiasm and provided photographs and portraits of Herta Herzog that truly enrich the book.

Salzburg and Vienna, April 2016

Elisabeth Klaus and Josef Seethaler

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Peter Ostendorf

Personal Memories from the Family

It is my great pleasure and honor to open this book with some remarks on my relation to Herta Massing-Herzog.

What would Herta have thought about such a volume? I imagine that her modesty would have made it difficult for her to fully enjoy being in the center of attention. However, I am sure that at the same time she would have experienced deep joy about the recognition of her life’s work.

Modesty, a continuous fight against narcissism and hubris, was one of her main characteristic traits. From the beginning I was deeply impressed by her mental presence, curiosity and keen perception and at the same time by her highly developed sense for what is achievable.

Her elegant and cosmopolitan appearance combined with great respect for other people. She would never impose her opinion on anyone, but always articulated her position very clearly. She accepted different views and standpoints while taking vigorous sides against ideological blinkers and idolization.

My first encounter with her took place in Freiburg, where she visited my wife and me in our small and unassuming student apartment, located at a main street. She quickly assessed the provisional atmosphere and instead of exchanging courtesies she just asked: When can you terminate the lease?

This is an example of her very direct way to articulate what needed to be done. However, she did not just criticize the situation, but discreetly left a banknote on her departure, enabling us to lease a nicer apartment.

Herta was highly authentic, being affectionate without any pretentious attitude. She met the break in her professional life that was caused by the chronic disease of her husband with great empathy for him and his situation and without any hesitation regarding the resulting readjustment of her own life. In a very touching way she instantly followed her husband to his small hometown in Western Germany that he had been forced to leave early under most difficult circumstances and that he longed for returning back to. Never did she mention any regrets about the radical changes associated with their move back to Germany such as losing her job, her career and adopted home town, New York. After moving to Germany, she was constantly exploring further options to alleviate the disease of her husband, ←13 | 14→Paul Massing and at the same time managed to work scientifically on topics such as anti-Semitism.

Her tremendous ability to face every new beginning with energy and optimism became apparent another time after her husband’s death when she moved to her original hometown in Leutasch in the Austrian province of Tyrol, close to her sister’s family.

Her affectionate presence and generosity have generated a vivid memory that will always remain with us.

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Josef Seethaler & Elisabeth Klaus

Herta Herzog: A Pioneer of Communication and Marketing Research

This book explores the life and work of Herta Herzog, a pioneer of communication and marketing research. Herta Herzog was born on August 14th, 1910 in Vienna and died on February 25th, 2010, at nearly 100 years old, in Leutasch, Tyrol (Austria). She spent most of her working life in the United States, where she moved to in 1935, following her first husband, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and working at his Office of Radio Research at Princeton University. In contrast to the underestimation Herzog had experienced in academia, where she worked for eight years in the area of radio research, she enjoyed a very successful career as a marketing researcher at the advertising agency McCann Erickson, where she had started in 1943. After her retirement in 1970, she returned to Europe and did research on and taught communication and cultural studies in Germany and Austria. Her last known scholarly publication was published in 1994. In chapter 1, Elisabeth Klaus provides a biographical sketch of Herzog’s life, setting the stage for extensively exploring the amazing scope of Herzog’s work as one of the founders of empirical communication research and the “grande dame” of market and motivation research, which is discussed in the following chapters of the book.

Perse (1996) distinguished three main stages in Herzog’s career: studies on the gratifications of radio listeners, which began in Lazarsfeld’s Office of Radio Research (ORR); studies on the advertising audience during her time as a market researcher for private companies; and studies on how television audiences “decode” media messages, which she pursued during her retirement. In our opinion, however, Herzog’s career started a few years before the aforementioned first stage with her dissertation which preceded the famous “RAVAG study” (sponsored by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation RAVAG and carried out by Lazarsfeld’s Wirtschaftspsychologische Forschungsstelle [Research Center for Economic Psychology] in 1931) and thus represents the first radio study in Austria.

In the 1920s, radio broadcasting became an important form of mass media, and thus increasingly attracted attention as an object of research from both broadcasting companies and researchers interested in getting to know the audience and its characteristics, expectations and needs. Particularly in the U.S. with its commercial broadcasting model, audience research techniques developed very ←15 | 16→quickly, and regular audience measurements were established as early as 1930. In Europe, where no commercial stations existed in the first decades of radio, audience studies were more theoretically grounded than in the U.S. Among the most sophisticated approaches that received their impetus from the development of radio broadcasting are psychological approaches to the study of expressive behavior (as developed by Karl Bühler, Werner Wolff, and Gordon W. Allport), which were concerned with the role of the human voice in interpersonal perception.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2016. 179 pp., 3 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Elisabeth Klaus (Volume editor) Josef Seethaler (Volume editor)

Elisabeth Klaus is Professor of Communication at the University of Salzburg (Austria). She earned her PhD at Notre Dame, IN (USA) Josef Seethaler is Deputy Director of the Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Alpen-Adria University


Title: What Do We Really Know About Herta Herzog?