. . . Monday June 21, 2004

People Meter Eaters

There continues to be a major dispute over the deployment of People Meters by Nielsen to get a more advanced look at who’s watching what on television.

At issue is the fact that the People Meter results have suggested much lower ratings for some local channels watched by a larger percentage of minority viewers.

Aside from this ongoing debate, I wonder how many non-Nielsen families realize just how pathetic the current system is when it comes to measuring viewership. For example, did you know that most Nielsen families are required to track their weekly viewing, not via some new-fangled technology, but by filling out a TV diary using a pencil and paper?

And depending on what they write down, the world’s biggest industries start writing checks for billions.

There is probably an important lesson or two to be drawn from this. Look at the web. On the internet, we can measure nearly everything about viewership; how many times your ad was viewed and by whom, how many times it was clicked, how many items were purchased by those who clicked, etc. Yet television offers little more than a wing and a prayer.

And look at how much bigger the ad business is in markets where measurement is still in the dark ages. There is clearly something desirable about not quite knowing how well an ad is performing.

Concentration is important!