The Nielsen Families. A group of selected households (mostly in New England I believe) who are used by Nielsen (the rating’s folk) to give a picture of what the U.S. nation watches on television. Long thought to be a less than random selection of households, some would say a chosen few, the watching habits of these families influences what TV programmes get made, where the advertising dollars get spent and what series gets a second run. Now Nielsen have announced (via Media Post) their intention to start monitoring the same families internet usage. They want to provide a single source measurement of television viewing across both traditional TV and online media which makes sense.

What they watch isn’t so interesting to me. I’d rather hear about how their watching habits differ between TV and online, whether the knowledge that their internet was now being monitored changed their habits (maybe moving them to watch more TV on the web and thus biasing Nielsen’s data) or whether it’s the younger or older viewer who likes to watch TV online. That kind of demographic data on user behavior is much more interesting than what soap opera they watch… Still at least they aren’t measuring their internet usage and they still do that at ISP level where you get broader, more representative results (of course depending on the ISP’s selected), at least I hope they aren’t.

Surely there must be a better way to measure television consumption in these digital days? Can’t they just measure TV through cable, digital and satellite channels at the provider end thus giving them a totally unbiased (depending on the provider) view of a large segment of the population’s television viewing? If decisions on quality/popularity of programming, who to place adverts with and who deserves a second series are being made by TV execs then surely the opinion of 600 homes in New England is not representative enough?

The best, most salient opinion piece on the Nielsen Families comes from one of my favourite authors Robert Anton Wilson have a read of page 59/60 below (just search for Nielsen in the Scribd doc) just for jokes 🙂

View this document on Scribd