Tuesday, May 20

Taking Aim: Nuts To Nielsen


It’s not a great year to be Nielsen. Every time the company attempts to move forward with Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement — A2/M2 — someone is ready to stop them: clients, competition, consumers.

For Project Apollo, a three-year joint project with Arbitron to monitor buying and radio-television habits of 5,000 households, it was clients. They did not want to pay for the results. Consumers weren’t thrilled with the number of tasks they were asked to perform either. It’s not as cool to be a Nielsen family anymore.

It might not be that cool to work at the company either. Jericho fans dumped 4,000 pounds of peanuts on the company’s property last week. It’s a statement to Nielsen that its small sampling sizes are costing consumers their favorite shows, even when they have enough fans to support a convention.

"It's an antiquated rating system that does not count 99.999 percent of actual TV viewers," Jonathan Whitesell, a Jericho fan and organizer of "Nuts To Nielsen!", told Tampa Tribune on May 10.

"We respect the passion of the 'Jericho' fans, but the decision to cancel the show was made by the network, not by Nielsen," spokesperson Gary Holmes said in a statement after receiving the nuts. "We measure programming that is viewed live, on a video recorder and on a PC, and we are confident that our ratings provide a fair measure of what people are viewing."

But fewer and fewer agree. Diane Mermigas, editor-at-large at MediaPost, recently called Nielsen the “about as inane an advertising value as can ever be justified” in her article about other initiatives to find effective measures. She’s not alone.

The differences between Nielsen ratings and other measures continue to grow, more and more shows are seeing 20 percent to 25 percent ratings gains when DVR viewing is calculated and some other are shows doubling their viewership online. It’s easier to get the numbers from TiVo or local cable companies that can count everyone.

A recent Universal McCann study supports how much the Internet has changed. More than 80 percent of the online population watches video clips online and their choice of viewing options goes well beyond YouTube. If you forget to set the DVR, there is always Hulu, CBS, or Apple iTunes.

It’s also one of the reasons CNN’s Veronica Del La Cruz asked how many people watch live news last Friday night. “Fifty percent? Maybe?”

We’re paying attention, she said, before outlining CNN’s iReport, which allows anyone to submit live reports and videos online. More than 900 of these videos have also been featured on CNN. The idea, which originally grew out of citizen submitted coverage of Hurricane Katrina, represents an opportunity for anyone to decide what might be newsworthy.

“Use the tools you find here to share and talk about the news of your world, whether that's video and photos of the events of your life, or your own take on what's making international headlines. Or, even better, a little bit of both.” — iReport.

What makes this significant for Nielsen is that if the company hopes to survive the long-term, it might consider that it has customers on two sides of the aisle. As consumers continue to lose faith in Nielsen, the more likely consumers will pass on being a Nielsen family. Not to mention, no one wants one company to collect all the data.

In fact, from what Whitesell and Jericho fans tell me, Nielsen is not to be trusted. And these fans are not alone.

Anyone who has a show facing cancellation (most recently, the show Moonlight) is continuing to send Nielsen a message — Nielsen might be confident in the rating system, but they are not. It’s a mounting public relations problem that Nielsen has yet to successfully address. For many consumers, Nielsen’s truncated research, not actual viewers, is the only reason their show was cancelled.

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4 comments:

winner on 5/22/08, 10:30 AM said...

Thanks to the blog owner. What a blog! nice idea.

sonyabrady on 5/22/08, 8:02 PM said...

Nielson is outdated in this day and age, and they know it. I am sick and tired of some suit and an outdated system deciding what I can and cannot watch on TV. They need to get out of the 1950's and come into the 21st century.

Rachel on 5/28/08, 10:44 AM said...

Rich,
Great article! The Nuts to Nielsen is a good idea. I agree they need to figure out a way to more accurately count viewers of shows!

Rachel

Rich on 5/29/08, 11:15 AM said...

Thank you for the comments.

I agree. There are so many ways to provide better tracking and I don't really understand why Nielsen hasn't given up on controlling the counts and simply gone to the various sources much like almost every network on the planet does.

It would provide richer, more accurate information. Maybe it all comes back to an authority complex, which is becoming much more difficult to maintain.

Best,
Rich

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