The Nielsen Twitter ratings: a new way to measure TV popularity


Conventional TV ratings, which are based on a small sample of “typical” TV viewers, seem almost quaint in the era of DVRs, streaming and social media. Now, it looks like even Nielsen — which has long issued those ratings — is ready to acknowledge that fact.

On Monday, the company announced a new metric called the “Nielsen Twitter TV ratings” that measures the social media activity of a TV show audience. The system is based on SocialGuide, a technology acquired by Nielsen that tracks Twitter activity for more than 36,000 programs and purports to identify how many tweet are associated with a given show. It will complement Nielsen’s existing ratings, which are derived from devices installed in the TV sets of a small number of “representative” households.

The new system is an acknowledgement of how the “second screen” has become a permanent feature of TV watching as Americans use smartphones, tablets and laptops to talk about a show as they’re watching it.

Nielsen’s release is short on details about how the system actually works. It refers to a “sophisticated classification process” but doesn’t explain how it will account for different age groups and audiences — does it, for instance, acknowledge that a show may be wildly popular among seniors but still gain few tweets? It seems likely that, despite a claim to measure the “number of unique tweets associated with a given program,” there will still be some hocus-pocus involved.

The system is slated to be commercially available at the start of the fall 2013 TV season.

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings


Comments have been disabled for this post