Saturday, September 29

Nothing But Buzz: Hey! Nielsen

Hey! Nielsen, a new opinion-driven social network from the leading provider of television audience measurement and advertising information services worldwide, is in public beta. Beta is the operative word.

It’s not The Nielsen Company’s first foray into the Internet. It also has BlogPulse, which is an automated trend discovery system for blogs and powered by Nielsen BuzzMetrics. BlogPulse is not the most used Internet measure, but its trending tools are well conceived.

BlogPulse is the reason I had high hopes for Hey! Nielsen despite fan efforts to change the failing rating system. Instead, I’m not sure what to think.

“Hey! Nielsen is more than just a new idea in opinions and social networking: it's a way for you to influence the TV and movies you watch, the music you listen to, and more ... all while making a name for yourself,” says the Hey! Nielsen page.

Buzz Breakdown

Wow. Someone crisscrossed the objectives. How can you accurately gauge fan buzz on the Internet if you are dangling “fame” in front of the people scoring the system? It adds the same kind of superficial buzz measures that are overshadowing Web metrics. And, it all takes place in a walled garden approach that people like Joseph Smarr want to rip down via Plaxo. (The interview by Scoble convinced me to check Plaxo out.)

Did I mention “beta” is the operative word?

It took less than a day for fans to see what Hey! Nielsen really is — a social network that asks “users” (a word that is well past its prime) to pile into the school gymnasium and have a shouting match. Those with the biggest lungs win. And those with the most outrageous comments get the most attention.

Jericho Fans

My hat is off to Jericho fans for dominating the Hey! Nielsen site and making Jericho number one on Monday and Tuesday before all those Supernatural fans showed up and Jericho settled into second place. Firefly is third. Heroes finished fourth. Veronica Mars, which I wrote about last week, is holding its own.

Beta Pains

But the most telling result in television is that Facebook was tied with Ugly Betty for eleventh place until today. (I didn’t even know Facebook was on a network; I better pay more attention.) Linkedin, in television rankings, still holds at 60; and MySpace is ranked 40. Again, that’s in television; never mind Internet rankings.

Worse, Supernatural and Jericho fans were recently accused of spamming the system. Huh? It’s not the fans; it’s the system.

Hey! Nielsen also tries to influence the influencers on their blog with Steve Ciabattoni writing: "Thankfully, those fervent fans are also commenting and giving opinions on more than just one topic while they're here, which is exactly what we want: Deep profiles, and a deeper sense of who's out there -- and from your posts, we can tell that some of you are really out there!"

Did I mention “beta” is the operative word?

Hey! Conclusions

The Hey! Nielsen team has some pretty bright people working on it. So perhaps from beta testing a real measure of fandom might emerge from the mob rules chaos that currently exists. As it stands, not much can be determined. Hey! Nielsen even ranks second in Internet rankings (on its own system).

I was also surprised to find Copywrite, Ink. in the mix (although I might tank after this write up). Thanks for the faith!

So here’s the bottom line from an end consumer (because I am not a tech guy, which can sometimes be a good thing). Hey! Nielsen has a robust, extremely fluid interface with tremendous potential. Where it misses is in providing any sense of real measure beyond mob rules buzz. The widgets are pretty solid.

Personally, I think Hey! Nielsen would have been better off setting the topics up, linking in media critic and blogger reviews to those subjects (with the reviews subject to review), weaving in some of its BlogPulse trending technologies, and asking people to vote and comment on that. It would have gamed it a bit, but not nearly as much as it is being gamed now.

If any fan groups deserve some extra kudos, it’s Jericho and Firefly. I’m amazed that both fan bases, with one show in stasis and another long ended, have quickly rallied and dominate the site. If we’re talking influence, there it is.



Sweet Tea on 9/29/07, 11:26 AM said...

Hey Rich,
I like your idea much better. I loved HeyNielsen at first but, this week, it has felt like a message board. One person votes for X which person 2 doesn't like so person 2 votes against X. Person 1 gets mad and on and on. I'm wondering what effect, if any, this will have on whatever HeyNielsen wants to measure.
Sure provides plenty of Buzz though.

Rich on 9/29/07, 12:51 PM said...

Thanks Jane,

I appreciate that. You're right. It does feel like a message board. And yes, people are voting in blocks, enacting revenge, and all sorts of silly things.

I don't expect it will have any effect while it is in beta. I'm often critical of the networks, but you know, seeing Hey!Nielsen through their eyes... I couldn't take it seriously at this point.

Buzz. Buzz. ;) Best, Rich

P.S. I forgot. I just received an e-mail from one of my friends. He says I sold myself short on the whole tech guy thing. I'm not an expert, but I have ample tech writing experience. Doh! :)

Myles on 9/29/07, 2:32 PM said...


I've written a blog post partly in response to this, but I think that you're right on the money in terms of the site (as it's being used) doesn't live up to any of its intended purposes. I've got a bit more faith than you do in things sorting themselves out, but you raise some key points in regards to the site's current status.

What I really want to echo, however, is the job that the fans of canceled or nearly canceled shows have done. I'm not surprised to see Firefly or Veronica Mars up there: from my own blogging experience, these fans are loyal beyond the lives of their show (I actually had a great discourse with Firefly fans on my personal blog just over the past few days).

And even thought I may have warned fans about their use of the system, I always made sure to note that I would never discourage their fandom and that it's about medium and not the message. Anyone who attacked the message was missing the whole point of Hey! Nielsen, as flawed as that might be.

Rich on 9/29/07, 2:59 PM said...

Hey Myles,

You had a solid write up. I added a couple comments. I might point out there is no pessimism on my part. That's why I kept saying it is in beta.

From your piece, I know there is ample space between their vision and reality. But as I said on your site... the reality was right there on old Digg.

Maybe we need to be more careful with this whole buzz/mob rules matrix.

"You've nothing to say ... They're breaking away ...
If you listen to fools... The Mob Rules ... The Mob Rules" — Black Sabbath

I have mixed feeling about it. I think it's great when used to elevate hidden talent and unrecognized art. Not so great when it's used to stifle others for no other reason than kudos paybacks and personality contests.

I propose that true measure of online friendships through social networking is ability to agree to disagree without fear of personal attacks and mob reprisal.*

All my best,

* I am not talking about Myles! :)

Myles on 9/29/07, 3:12 PM said...


You're lucky for that asterisk, I was able to cancel the hit on you before it went down. ;) Couldn't agree more on the last point, my friend.

But no, I think you've hit on one of the key problems: as much as we wish there could be a mob mentality, in practice it is messy. As a result, we then place limits on the mob, which entirely defeats the initial purpose of a mob. And the cycle continues.

Is there a happy medium? I don't know. But I really hope Nielsen finds it, and that great fans and bloggers alike can help them get there.

Rich on 9/29/07, 3:22 PM said...


That is funny. I commented and thought ... Oh my! I better fix that before someone misreads it.

Yes. There is a happy medium. This last week, in participating on the Bloggers Unite campaign with BlogCatalog, everyone learned a lot. I'm still putting together the outcomes (not buzz, but actual outcomes), which will take some time. But there is a lot of amazing stuff.

To some degree, the campaign created a buzz effect, but the real outcomes were almost unimaginable. As the measure was outcomes — tangible results that change actual behavior and not mere perception — I am amazed.

I guess what I am saying is organized mobs (of course, then they are not mobs) intent on doing good will prevail. In the case of Hey!Nielsen, a more organized structure on the front end could have prevented the mob mentality and created the environment that they hoped to create.

Many times, I have written right here that the difference between one social network and the next is the leaders who operate them. These leaders, whomever they are, set the culture.

There is, imo, the happy medium.


Rich on 9/29/07, 5:16 PM said...

More words:

Rich on 9/29/07, 6:45 PM said...

Even More Words:

"The company that measures TV viewership announced a significant expansion Wednesday, saying it would triple the number of "Nielsen families" over the next four years to keep better track of new ways of watching television.

Nielsen Media Research said it wants 37,000 homes, with 100,000 people, reporting on its viewing habits by 2011. That's about triple the current sample size of 12,000 households with 35,000 people." — Austin 360

Those are the big changes sweeping Nielsen to include more viewers. What do you think?

Sweet Tea on 9/29/07, 8:15 PM said...

Triple the size still does nothing for those viewers who aren't a Nielsen family. It's not enough.

Rich on 10/1/07, 7:49 PM said...

From Hey! Nielsen:

Steve Ciabattoni, sr. content manager, Hey! Nielsen, e-mailed today to say that they are looking at their new social network with a critical eye and remain confident it will balance out in time.

Kudos to Steve and the Hey! Nielsen team. I always appreciate it when representatives take the time to respond.

While my post might be critical, I'd like to point out again that I hope it works out. An accurate measure for social media as it relates to network programming is badly needed. It will be even more important as we move ever closer to the concept of convergence. That said, I'm glad to see they are doing something other than creating another social media network.

We'll check up with them later and see how they are doing.



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