Nielsen Dumps Diaries In Set Meter Markets, Demos No Longer Accredited

Editor's Note: This story has been updated from an earlier version. A correction has been published here.

Effective today, demographic data reported by Nielsen in all but the top 25 TV markets, will be unaccredited. The move follows Nielsen's decision to drop paper diaries -- a nearly century-old measurement method -- for estimating the demographic composition of audiences in its "set-metered" market ratings and to begin using new, as-yet-unaccredited methods for calculating who is watching television.

As a result, media industry self-regulatory ratings watchdog the Media Rating Council announced Wednesday that the demographic data Nielsen reports for those 31 markets -- ranked 26 and up -- will be unaccredited.



The move follows Nielsen’s decision to drop paper diaries -- a nearly century-old measurement method -- for estimating the demographic composition of audiences in its local metered market ratings and to begin using new, as-yet-unaccredited methods for calculating who is watching television.

Demographic data for the 25 largest TV markets are derived from people meters and remain accredited.

In 2010, the MRC pulled accreditation for Nielsen’s 154 diary-only TV markets and that service has remained unaccredited ever since. The new move affects the nation’s 31 largest TV markets -- and the ones accounting for most of spot TV ad spending -- which previously used a combination of meters for calculating household ratings and diaries for estimating audience demographics.

While household ratings in the set-meter markets will continue to be accredited, the MRC said Nielsen’s demographic data will no longer be accredited in those markets.

The MRC said it is continuing to review accreditation for the new method being introduced in place of diaries, a mathematical modeling technique that Nielsen calls “viewer assignment” that extrapolates audience estimates.

In a related move, the MRC said another new method being introduced today by Nielsen to estimate household ratings in 14 previously diary-only markets will also remain unaccredited. That method, an electronic “code meter,” is also being evaluated by the MRC, which said it expects to make a decision on accrediting both methods in early 2016.

The MRC’s decision to pull accreditation for the demographic data of Nielsen’s metered market services, comes a week after the MRC made an unprecedented decision to continue accrediting ratings for Nielsen’s national TV ratings, even though it is conducting a concurrent review of the same “viewer assignment” method being used as part of Nielsen’s new NPX, or “national panel expansion” method. The MRC said that service will continue to be accredited until the council completes its review of the service in early 2016.

While MRC accreditation does not determine whether a ratings service’s estimates can be used as “currency” for advertising buys, the accreditation process was created as the industry’s agreed-upon self-regulatory process for ensuring that ratings meet certain minimum standards. The process, and the formation of the MRC, were created following Congressional hearings on the ratings scandals of the 1960s and a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

11 comments about "Nielsen Dumps Diaries In Set Meter Markets, Demos No Longer Accredited".
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  1. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, December 31, 2015 at 9:52 a.m.

    It seems (to this reader at least) that the loss of MRC accreditation may come at an opportune time. Digitally based broadcast in the local markets can provide the household level data to measure what is on (not exctly who is actually watching or how engaged they are) with great precision. This becomes an essential part of real time measurement. It will help drive programmatic ad transactions in the local spot markets. Perhaps now we will see what value programmatic brings to broadcast, and what older media planning and buying processes are replaced or changed. We can also observe the extent to which the new predictive analytic models provide accurate data. In any case, goodbye to paper trails.

  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, December 31, 2015 at 10:39 a.m.

    Do I hear the MRC saying on the 12.31.15:
    but NATIONAL VAM is OK for now?
    Could there be light at the end of the tunnel?

  3. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, December 31, 2015 at 11:23 a.m.

    Such sensational headlines! Almost all of the "NEW" targeting for the equally "NEW" audience buying powered by "BIG DATA" is some form of modeling.  Rentrak and Simmons, Experian and Nielsen, ComScore and Samba, etc etc etc.  MRC needs to get on with it and empower all parties to move forward or it will be as obsolete and quaint as the diaries. New year looking way too much like the old years. 

  4. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, December 31, 2015 at 12:24 p.m.

    To better understand the accreditation status of Nielsen's Measurement Services 

    go to MRC.


    Please see the December 30 and 24 Press Releases first to appreciate the subtleties 

    of the latest MRC deliberations.


    In short, for all National & Local Data Users: 



  5. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 31, 2015 at 5:31 p.m.

    So much for "there will always be diaries in Duluth" (an 1980s quote from a former EMRC executive director who later worked at Nielsen).  Source: Broadcastiing, 11/7/1988, p. 23.

  6. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC replied, December 31, 2015 at 6:38 p.m.

    Dear Dorothy,

    Congratulations!  You've done it ... and well before Midnight.

    Your coment is the most foolish and most gnorant posted on this topic in MediaDailyNews in 2015.  And you had lots of competition!  It was fierce, but you pulled it out before the buzzer.

    Your attack on the MRC reveals that you have no idea 
    what the Media Rating Council does and why it was created.

    Clue: It's the only Congressionally-mandated body
    separating the ratings research industry from utter and total chaos in 2016.  
    Now, can you spell QUALITY?  Would you know how to reconize it in a rating or impression?

    Thought not!

    Added to your other comments about "modeling," "Big Data" and all things "NEW," 
    you, Dorothy, have spent too much time in Oz with The Wizard.  Time to return to Kansas.

    Here's a New Year's Resolution: Think before you speak ... or zip it!

    It's retro-commentary like yours that makes every aspect of the media business
    seem old, foolish and fetid.  How about advertising cigarettes on TV, Ms. Mediabrands WW?

    Next year can be better for you and the rest of the industry, as you wish, 
    if you learn something about Media Research, Statistical Science and the MRC. []

    Onwards & Upwards.


    PS Happy New Year!  Really.  By tomorrow this will all be forgotten.

  7. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC replied, December 31, 2015 at 7:35 p.m.

    Dear Professor Ferguson,

    You're so subtle.  But John Dimling's service to the EMRC has nothing to do the current challenge facing the Media Rating Council.  Thankfully, George Ivie is no John Dimling.
    George Ivie's career has been a model of character and consistency.

    Whenever I see the "Swan Lake" performed, regardless of the (Ballet) Company,
    I always think of John Dimling's dazzling media research pirouettes.
    First, challenging standards.  Then, setting standards.
    And finally, threatening standard-setters,
    if they sought to learn too much about how the Nielsen "sausage" was made.

    I had not heard that John Dimping had become "He-who-must-not-be-named."
    On the other hand, I think there must be a new Lord Voldemort in Riddle House.
    Once Nielsen started modeling national viewing data, instead of tabulating it,
    on 12.28.15, I knew the Harry Potter Era of TV Ratings had fully arrived.

    Get me my Wicca Wand!

    Happy New Year!  Enjoy Media's Magical Menagerie in 2016.


    PS  It takes a Wizard.

  8. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy replied, January 1, 2016 at 9:40 p.m.

    As Nick, Ed Papazian and John Gruno will confirm none of  Nielsen's US ratings approaches measure "watching" or  "viewing" TV, most notbaly in meter/diary or diary only measured markets.  So please Joe, as the most respected industry commentator in America, how about a New Year's truth in reporting resolution?   Not to use the words "watching" or "viewing" in association with US TV measurement as currently executed.  Based on Media Post's (and your) enviable influence this would go a long way to helping to correct the myth of what is actually measured and underline Media Post's philosophy of not perpetuating misinformation.   

    It may also save Dorothy from the Wicked Witch or perhpas more aptly Riddle House.  More importantly not perpetuating the myth by not using "watching" or "viewing" (and why!) may encourage the industry to throw their fullest and complete support behind the MRC while demanding that the DoJ re-affirms it's position on TV measurement and the requirements established by MRC for accreditation via at least minimum ratings quality thresholds.   

    Happy 2016.   It's going to be quite a ratings ride!!

  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 2, 2016 at 7:11 a.m.

    Good point, Tony. But as long as we are about it, I'd sugggest the same treatment for so-called "big data" set top box ratings, which measure set usage, not "viewing" and, to be frank, for Nielsen's peoplemeters, which give us "commercial minute viewers", but really do not as no panel member actually signifies that he/she "watched" a commercial----this is merely assumed by the system.

  10. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, January 2, 2016 at 11:47 a.m.

    Amen, Ed.  Per our comments and discussions last year on the real and significant differences in what is actually measured across each of the various media platforms, it should be of considerable concern to the industry that so many cross platform metrics are mixing apples and pineapples based on a variety of differently derived "gross impressions".  Even time spent which appears to offer a common base, albeit of little value to detailed multi-media planning, is rife with issues.  
    So in ardently supporting the MRC I beleive the MRC Board must now emphasize measurement of ad or program  exposure as the media metric required for accreditation. Not only would it finally make cross platform analytics sense it would finally allow Joe Mandese  and his colleagues to properly use, "viewing", "watching"," hearing", etc.  It would also help eradicated the egregious errors being made by the  big data engineers when dealing with non-compatible audience ratings and multi-media reach/frequncy models.  

  11. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, January 3, 2016 at 3:33 p.m.

    Lest I set off another ad hominem rant on my ignorance I wish to say that indeed the need for consistent measurement and methodologies across platforms is challenge #1. Agencies are regularly using a variety of modeling and "look alike" proxy profiles to more tightly target audiences beyond age and gender and buy audiences across rather than within network provided packages.  The challenges are almost infinite in verifying said audiences, proving their presence in candidate and purchased inventory and, holy grail to us all, determining reach versus gross impressions.  Add to this multi-platform video content  and ad viewing amid opportunity-to-see on linear TV and provable playing (not viewing) digitally and the job of media professionals to provide a conherent view into audience measurement for any campaign is fraught.  

    My point (as she assumes her flak jacket and Invisibility Cloak) is that the MRC is uniquely positioned to move beyond its original congressional mandate to help us frame new standards by itself being open to new methods necessitated by new buying and data realities.  Programmatic video buying informed by targeting and behavioral data and taking advantage of underutilized local inventory is rapidly becoming a hyper-local tactic for more finitely addressing advertisers geographic needs.  Until we all have chips in our heads we will needs must continue to model.  If we can provide standards for those modeling approach a across our panoply of partners, this can only be a good thing.  

    I would finally like to add that this is not Facebook or Mashable and I am not amused by choleric abuse or insults. 

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