Commentary

Nielsen's Twitter Ratings: New Treatment For A New Illness -- Or Just New Questions?

Show me where TV viewership, social media TV messaging and social media “readership” intersect.

A new Nielsen Twitter TV service hopes to do this. Nielsen says a typical TV-related tweet has a power rating of around 50. For example, if 2,000 people tweet about a program, 100,000 will see and read those tweets.

For this season’s premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy,” about 98,600 people -- about 1% of the show’s 9.3 million viewers on traditional TV -- ”authored” roughly 225,000 messages about the episode, The New York Timessays.

This isn’t new in the world of social media as it pertains to TV shows. What is new? That 2.8 million people read those messages. That’s important to TV executives and advertisers looking to reach increasingly fractionalized viewers.

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How did this Twitter messaging correlate with actual viewers of the show? Nielsen can’t tell us that right now. The new Twitter TV ratings are separate from its traditional TV ratings.

We can guess a small core of “Grey’s” viewers are particular fanatical about the show. Right now we don’t know what that’s worth to TV networks and marketing executives -- especially if an advertiser (or ABC, for that matter) wants to sponsor  a particular Twitter area of those “Grey Anatomy” messages.

Some might believe these “readers” of Twitter messages are like TV viewers -- maybe even more engaged TV viewers.  

If you are a TV executive or marketer, you want to make sense of this and would perhaps like a better “currency” than the one Nielsen currently produces with traditional TV ratings.

Even those social media messages themselves have been called into question. Ed Keller, chief executive of the Keller Fay Group, says to hold on a second: “The conversations that take place in the real world can often be quite different from those that take place on social media,” he told the Times.

True enough. But social media means something -- even if you can’t stand the story arc, the characters on a particular high-rated TV medical drama, or perhaps the person writing a particular tweet.

Perhaps a better diagnosis is needed -- or more drama in the media laboratory.

2 comments about "Nielsen's Twitter Ratings: New Treatment For A New Illness -- Or Just New Questions? ".
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  1. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, October 8, 2013 at 12:09 p.m.

    How does Nielsen know if these Tweets are seen by followers? For instance, I follow 800 people but that hardly means I read every tweet they send. So, for the "Grey's Anatomy" example, I'd be very skeptical of the 2.8 million tweets "read". More like "opportunity to read."

  2. Alan Wolk from The Diffusion Group, October 9, 2013 at 10:24 a.m.

    I am in full agreement with Rob F - it's laughable to think that most of those tweets were "read" as opposed to "showed up on someone's Twitter feed."

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