Nielsen and Twitter Partnership Shows Difference Between Viewers and Engagement
Twitter, like most internet services that grow to global size and then wind up to go public, has been looking for ways to make itself seem useful to people who would actually pay for its service: media companies and folks in public relations. Its partnership with Nielsen (of Nielsen ratings, the audience research standard by which American television is judged) is certainly a bid to try and get television studios to want to pay money for better Twitter services by demonstrating how powerful Twitter engagement can be. And sure, if it succeeds, it’ll make Twitter some money, but it could also lead to an entirely different way of judging the strength of an audience.
Because, as it turns out, the overlap between shows that scored high on Nielsen ratings and the shows that were most Tweeted about a few weeks ago is almost non-existent.
Twitter and Nielsen’s first published results list the top 10 shows for each system for the week of September 23rd through 29th. Twitter results counted not by number of tweets or retweets, but by how many folks total could be estimated to have seen a tweet about that show on their feed.
1. AMC, “Breaking Bad,” 9.28 million
2. NBC, “The Voice” (Monday), 3.84 million
3. ABC, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (Thursday), 3.40 million
4. ABC, “Dancing with the Stars,” 3.20 million
5. ESPN, “SEC Storied,” 2.93 million
6. ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy,” 2.84 million
7. NBC, “The Voice” (Tuesday), 2.77 million
8. Fox, “Glee,” 2.73 million
9. CBS, “How I Met Your Mother,” 2.55 million
10. Fox, “The X Factor,” 2.09 million
The Nielsen results for the same time period:
1. NBC, “NFL Football: New England at Atlanta,” 20.49 million
2. CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” (Thursday, 8:31 p.m.), 20.44 million
3. CBS, “NCIS,” 20.02 million
4. CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” (Thursday, 8 p.m.), 18.99 million
5. CBS, “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 16.35 million
6. CBS, “The Crazy Ones,” 15.52 million
7. NBC, “Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick,” 15.26 million
8. NBC, “The Voice” (Monday), 14.98 million
9. NBC, “The Voice” (Tuesday), 14.35 million
10. ESPN, “NFL Football: Oakland at Denver,” 13.92 million
Variety spoke to Graeme Hutton, senior VP of research for ad agency Universal McCann, about Twitter ratings, and he agrees that the potential value for companies is that “it provides a pathway for an advertiser to turn audience energy into brand momentum.” Translation: we can get viewers to proselytize for the show. Additionally, he said its value lies in “developing brand-activation strategies, and highlighting potential new programming areas for brands which may have previously been viewed as outside their comfort zone.” Let me translate that too: developing ways of creating buzz for new brands, and figuring out what markets exist for an established brand that are not currently being actively targeted. Hypothetical example: a female audience for action movie airings.
Because of the limits of technology and, you know, privacy, advertising research in television has necessarily always focused on the bare minimum of engagement: are there eyeballs on the television? How many? But imagine a world in which shows that created engaged viewers; viewers that talked about the show, got their friends to watch, and otherwise voluntarily and naturally spread knowledge of the show’s existence and good quality; were valued about shows that people simply tuned in and then turned off as soon as the show was over. Note above, that the only overlap between the two lists is The Voice, and the Twitter list much more populated with narratively driven programming. As geek viewers, and as members of fandoms, we should be very, very interested in such a world.
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