Nielsen's Twitter Measurement: Much Ado About 140 Characters?
Nielsen today began formally reporting how many tweets there were about television shows, and as has been widely reported during the week of Sept. 23, there were more than 1.2 million tweets about “Breaking Bad” reaching nearly 9.3 million Twitter users.
This will become a measurement that surely, some networks and programmers will use to show how engaged audiences are with some shows. It sounds ridiculous, when you think about it for more than a minute, or more than 140 characters.
Of course, the next step would be to begin structuring dramas and comedies that “tweet well,” which is to say, build shows that have more shock and more schlock. If Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl nip slip had occurred this year, rather than in pleasantly calm 2004, surely Twitter would have exploded.
Programmers for years have known the rhythm of Nielsen ratings, for want of a better word, and they write for it. If it becomes statistically important to know a Twitter rating—up ‘til now, it seems it’s been a kind of “I’ll be darned” kind of stat—then you can bet video of all sorts will change to create a better number.
"The Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are a powerful measurement with far reaching implications for the industry," Steve Hasker, president of global product leadership for Nielsen, said in a statement. Darn tootin.’
In the first week, as Mashable has pointed out, the “Breaking Bad” Twitter number shouldn’t have been too surprising. It had a huge overall Nielsen ratings, its best ever by a wide margin. Others among the top shows weren’t represented in the top ten (“NCIS” is a Twitter no show, despite being one of those perennial CBS hits media noisemakers don’t make much noise about).
ESPN’s “SEC Storied,” a documentary series about famous football heroes from that collegiate conference, generated “just” 72.4 million tweets, but reached 2.9 million Twitter accounts, good for fifth in the Nielsen list.
The measurement does make me realize that other than YouTube videos that go viral (and then, like we wish real viruses would do, fade away quickly), I’ve rarely seen tweets for online video. I take that back. There were a lot for “House of Cards,” (mostly along the lines of how many hours friends watched more than what they thought of it) but I think my thin point might hold: Professional online content does not set the Twitter world abuzz, because, obviously, it’s viewed at different times. At least that’s one reason why. But if that becomes a measurement advertisers actually pay attention to, these Nielsen Twitter ratings aren’t such good news. Nielsen isn’t counting Twitter mentions of videos you’ve seen on Funny or Die, or whatever.
Back when Twitter was announcing plans to do this last December, it said it had 140 million active users who send a billion tweets every two and a half days “making Twitter data a necessity in producing standardized metrics representing online and mobile conversations about television.” It may be shocking to discover how important advertisers regard tweets about the dancing ability of some dried up celebrity on ABC.