I remember once that I felt inordinately special. Our family was selected as a Nielsen Family. At that time, I lived on TV. Ok, let’s be real, I still do. It’s my form of meditation and escape. I love the stories and characters, and getting lost in it all. Stop judging me, already! I digress. I took my role as a Nielsen Family very seriously. I logged (on the little paper booklet) what I watched every hour I spent in front of the screen. I felt bad when there was a special on and I could not watch my regularly scheduled program because I knew that could tick it down. I felt as though the future of television lay in my hands. I was a twit.
Nielsen has long held the responsibility of recording and reporting the ratings for TV shows. This was an important task at one point as it was the only feedback loop available for content creators outside of news media. It was the only way to literally get into the homes of people and “see” what they were watching. Nielsen was the emperor in the gladiatorial arena effectively deciding the fate of our favorite shows. Without the numbers, the show was over.
Now, there is a new partnership in the next-generation of this feedback loop. As people relegate their old-fashioned water cooler conversations to social media outlets, Nielsen has had to adapt their strategies. While Twitter is easy to track and incredibly popular, it’s not the Big Daddy of social media. Nielsen has been tracking the, mostly, public conversations on Twitter already, but it felt like it was missing the larger piece of the equation. Enter Facebook.
Facebook is going to be offering Nielsen the aggregate data on the conversations you have on the site. What this means is that if you mention how much you heart Arrow or you talk about how badass the fight scene was in last night’s episode of …whatever, Nielsen will get to see it. Even if your status update and the corresponding fangirling conversation is all set to private.
Sounds like the dictionary definition of data mine, does it not?
It’s unclear exactly how the information Neilsen gets is determined by Facebook and separated from the other conversations about your day, your friends, or your latest meal. Your direct facebook messages are secure, at least in this respect, however the feed messages you post are the fodder for this… “research?” I’m not sure I trust Facebook’s filtering process. It is only supposed to be aggregate data, compiled by Facebook and shared with Nielsen. However, it chips away at one’s feeling of security rather acutely.
I guess the argument could be made that social media is meant to be exactly that: information shared. But isn’t it the right of the person to decide with whom the information is shared? Isn’t that why the privacy settings were put into place: to give the poster more control?
But hey, peoples needs to know whats we’re watching on TV…
Here’s my issue with the whole partnership. In my mind, Nielsen was a necessity at one time. Because content creators needed that feedback loop, Neilsen had a place in the architecture of television. Now, the world is overly saturated with feedback. Shows have live tweeting events, hashtag trends, Facebook pages, Instagrams. Celebrities (even the ones off camera) have instant access to fans and how they feel about the content, whether they like it or not. So, exactly how, in today’s uber-connected world, is Nielsen even still relevant? Much respect for trying to adapt with the times, but don’t take all my emo comments about Scandal too seriously. It’s Facebook.
I know there will always be a board room full of suits somewhere wanting to have charts with all kinds of data presented to them before they’ll make a decision. But why does that data have to come at the cost of fans’ privacy? If it is the voice of the fans they want, shouldn’t they listen to what they’re saying?