Nielsen hopes to get social with Facebook, Twitter ‘conversation’ data

By Jim O'Neill on Jan 20 2016 at 6:00 AM
Nielsen hopes to get social with Facebook, Twitter ‘conversation’ data

There’s not a lot of love lost between media research firm Nielsen and TV and advertising executives who bemoan the rating company’s sampling approach to measuring the viewership of homes.

For years those execs have challenged the accuracy of basing a TV show’s popularity on the viewing habits of 25,000 Nielsen homes and even when the company recently bumped that sample to 40,000 homes – out of 116.4 million potential TV households – critics scoffed at the move.

Nielsen now is attempting to add a more populist measurement – the traffic of Twitter and Facebook users – to further refine its ratings system.

Nielsen’s “Social Content Ratings” will measure the number of Facebook “conversations” along with the number of Twitter Tweets about both traditional and streaming programming when the show is televised and throughout the day.

Nielsen has been tracking Twitter for nearly three years and both broadcasters and advertisers have used it to an extent.

Nielsen is determined to make the Social ratings stick, and the New York Times wrote that executives believed they would “become even more integral to the industry.”


Nielsen ratings have been contentious for decades, and TV executives especially have spent more than a little vitriol lambasting the measurement company.

At CES, for example, NBCUniversal’s chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, Linda Yaccarino, said Nielsen’s C3 rating was “unfair to marketers, it’s unfair to content creators, and it’s up to all of us in this industry to take a stand.”

And, she spent little time defending an October move to eschew Nielsen ratings for CNBC’s Business Day.

“The sky didn’t fall. The network didn’t go off the air,” she said. “In fact, marketers love that they’ve finally got an accurate picture of their audience. And there’s no reason we can’t do that across our entire industry.”

The biggest issue is the movement of younger audiences away from traditional television to mobile devices and online viewing, which executives contend don’t get measured adequately, despite Nielsen’s much ballyhooed “Total Audience Measurement” solution, an initiative Yaccarino and contends just doesn’t go far enough.

“Progress is slow, and we have some serious questions about their methodology,” she said. “There’s nothing ‘total’ about that metric if you ask me.”

Yaccarino and other executives have pointed to digital census measurements like those available from measuring streaming viewing on the Internet and though data collection from set-top boxes as a far better solution. That digital solution can count every viewer and can deliver data on age, gender and even potential product interests, a game changer, she said.

“Imagine you’re a quarterback, and every time you threw a touchdown, it was only worth four points instead of six,” Yaccarino said during a keynote session at the Variety Entertainment Summit at CES. “That’s basically what I’m dealing with every friggin’ day.”

Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn


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