The MRC Pulls Nielsen Accreditation -- Now What?

Nearly three years ago, I (un)gracefully bowed out of the TV ratings battle, having come to the realization that a market internally closed to innovation can only be a worthwhile venture to those inside the quiet quarters of power. With master and slaves playing roles in name only, mutually aligned behind the façade of WWE-style bravado, left no real hope for change -- at least not from the outside, where I am (gleefully) destined to remain.

That's not to say we haven't been keeping an eye on things. Most recently, the eighth and final erinMedia-era patent was finally granted by the USPTO, providing Maggio Media Research, our IP holding company, with a fairly toothy portfolio of ratings products that can be sprung on the marketplace fairly easily.

As I've told a handful who still drop by virtually, on occasion, once an enterprise like Project Canoe fully grasps that all of the ingredients for nearly flawless second-by-second demographic ratings are already in plain sight, other forms of media will yearn for the granular truthiness of TV ratings drawn from tens of millions of anonymous voices.



And the final patent, which allows ratings companies to use even a small portion of privacy-compliant data to generate a ratings graph that moves as content is displayed, seems destined for use (or at least licensing) by many who were still in high school when prodigies Foster and Vinson (the Orville and Wilbur of modern ratings) thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if....."

The announcement of the MRC's likely temporary revocation of Nielsen's diary market product sounds to me like a dry run for a coming catastrophe, one that will impact more than those who buy and sell media, from Abilene, Texas, to Zanesville, Ohio.

After all, the MRC is to TV as Moody's or S&P is to bonds or nations -- merely a single point of credibility in an industry that relies on confidence and confidants to survive. Whether we are measuring MBS's (Mortgage-Backed Securities) or NBS's (you figure it out...), the seal of approval of an accreditation body is but one, often misleading, signal of viability.

As we are seeing in the other, more important currency market -- the one our whole global economy relies upon -- accreditation does not a valid or legitimate currency make.

No, what we all need to discern is, in a world where currency makes it go 'round, "What is the real lesson one learns when a vital currency becomes flawed... or compromised... or defunct?"

Whether it is TV currency, national currency or global currency, the key to survival in any currency-dependent environment is the key to the survival of our imperiled nation: The separation of power, and open competition that yields uncompromising innovation and, as important, a benchmark for triangulation.

As Frank Foster so wisely remarked in 2005, when erinMedia contemplated seeking MRC approval for its products, "Why bother? We pay all that money, disclose our methods, just, so that at the end of the day, we have the same accreditation as.... a diary?"

The lack of competition in currency means that you are beholden to the bank; your very lifeblood is measured by the maker of the measurement tool. Said another way: "The ruler becomes the ruler, and the measured, ruled."

What is the value of a dollar, when all the common man has is the same dollar by which to measure itself? What is a rating point worth, when it is comprised from the voices of only 0.015% or so of the entire viewing public, and ignores 99.95% of us?

Can a currency truly and accurately speak for an entire nation, when two-thirds of that nation has rejected support of that currency? Watching TV can teach you a lot; watching the TV currency might just save this nation.

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