Social data: A better way to track TV

Unlike traditional TV analytics, social data tracks both viewership and sentiment.

Solid State by skippyjon, on FlickrNielsen families, viewer diaries, and TV meters just won’t cut it anymore. Divergent forms of television viewership require new audience measurement tools. Jodee Rich (@WingDude), CEO and founder of PeopleBrowsr, says social data is the key to new toolsets because it reveals both viewing behavior and sentiment.

Rich explores the connection between social data and television analytics in the following interview. He’ll expand on these ideas during a presentation at next week’s Strata Summit in New York.

Nielsen has been measuring audience response since the era of radio, yet the title of your Strata talk is “Move over, Nielsen.” What is Nielsen’s methodology, and why does it no longer suffice?

Jodee RichJodee Rich: Nielsen data is sampled across the United States from approximately 20,000 households. Data is aggregated every night, sent back to Nielsen, and broken out by real-time viewings and same-day viewings.

There are two flaws in Nielsen’s rating system that we can address with social analytics:

  1. Nielsen’s method for classifying shows as “watched” — The Nielsen system does not demonstrate a show’s popularity as much as it showcases which commercials viewers tune in for. If a person switches the channel to avoid commercials, the time spent watching that show is not tallied. The show is only counted as watched in full when the viewer is present for commercials.
  2. Nielsen ratings don’t measure mediums other than television — The system does not take into account many of the common ways people now access shows, including Hulu, Netflix, on-demand, and iTunes.

How does social data provide more accurate ways of measuring audience response?

Jodee Rich: Social media offers opportunities to measure sentiment like never before. The volume of data available through social media outlets simply dwarfs Nielsen’s sample base of 20,000 households. Millions of people form the social media user base, and naturally that base is more representative of the dynamics of an evolving demographic.

It’s not just the volume, however. Social media values real-time engagement over passive participation. We can see not just what people are watching, but also monitor what they say about it. By observing actively engaged people, we can better discern who the viewers are, what they value, what they discuss, how often they talk about these things, and most importantly, how they feel about it. This knowledge allows brands to tailor messages with very high relevance.

Strata Summit New York 2011, being held Sept. 20-21, is for executives, entrepreneurs, and decision-makers looking to harness data. Hear from the pioneers who are succeeding with data-driven strategies, and discover the data opportunities that lie ahead.

Save 30% on registration with the code ORM30

How will these new measurement tools benefit viewers?

Jodee Rich: With social data, the television experience will be better catered to viewers. Broadcasters will enrich the viewing experience by creating flexible, responsive services that are sensitive to real people’s tastes and conversations. We believe that ultimately this will make for more engaging entertainment and prolong the lives of the shows people love.

This interview was edited and condensed

Photo: Solid State by skippyjon, on Flickr


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