This Feels Like Good News: The Twitter Nielsen Metric

Nielsen finally stops relying solely on the boxes of old white people. 

The Nielsen method of television ratings has felt hopelessly outdated for years, and I've been railing against it for almost as long. With streaming and DVR, it's impossible to measure a show's impact on an audience based only on what the Nielsen families are watching live - but live viewing is still the only viewing that really counts when it comes to advertising dollars, and that's all that matters on network television. So what to do?

Well, this is a start. Nielsen and Twitter are teaming up to create the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating for the American television market. The companies are establishing an as yet undefined metric to determine the reach of television conversation (TV talk, if you will) on Twitter. Now all that live-tweeting people do that drives you so crazy because they're spoiling the latest Breaking Bad episode that you won't watch for a few more days could be the very thing that saves Breaking Bad from cancellation! (Or, you know, a show that actually needs saving.)

“The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating is a significant step forward for the industry, particularly as programmers develop increasingly captivating live TV and new second-screen experiences, and advertisers create integrated ad campaigns that combine paid and earned media,” said Steve Hasker, President, Global Media Products and Advertiser Solutions at Nielsen. “As a media measurement leader we recognize that Twitter is the preeminent source of real-time television engagement data.”


“Our users love the shared experience of watching television while engaging with other viewers and show talent. Twitter has become the world's digital water cooler, where conversations about TV happen in real time. Nielsen is who the networks rely on to give better content to viewers and clearer results to marketers,” said Chloe Sladden, Twitter’s vice president of media. “This effort reflects Nielsen's foresight into the evolving nature of the TV viewing experience, and we’re looking forward to collaborating with Twitter ecosystem partners on this metric to help broadcasters and advertisers create truly social TV experiences.”

Yeah! Everybody's happy about it! And it does feel like a long delinquent step forward into the modern method of television viewing, which has very little to do with the Nielsen ratings of yore. With smart phones and iPads, audiences aren't just passively watching these days, and companies are all about interactive marketing. You know, synergy and all that other buzzword stuff. While I don't care about any of that, I do care about unconventional shows that don't perform well under traditional Nielsen ratings being rescued from cancellation because their audiences are the live-tweeting type. And live-tweeters got dollars to spend, advertisers! We're buying more than the cranky old CBS-dwellers, trust. 

So yeah, this feels like good news to me! And just in time for 2013 - not a minute too soon, Nielsen.