Angry Letter: Nielsen ratings

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I got one of my strangest angry letters yet the other day, from a man named Tom (accident55@hotmail.com) who took issue with my blog entry about the Nielsen ratings and TiVo users. Evidently, he feels very strongly about the matter. His passion for the subject, combined with failing to take his medication, resulted in the following foaming, frothy e-mail:

Lots and lots of inaccuracies in your latest “diary” entry. (As that is what a blog is. A 12 year old girl’s diary.) [And yet somehow I manage to be neither 12 years old nor a girl.]

Where did you pull the number 9000 from? Out of your [swear word]? There are 5000 national Nielsen boxes distributed, and another 23000+ locally. So, you were only off by about 66%. Nice.

[Well, it is nice to receive constructive criticism, but in fact there is some confusion about the number. It was 5,000 for several years, but one of the things the newest Nielsen CEO, Susan Whiting, did was increase it. You will find the number 9,000 reported in a variety of sources. Google Nielsen ratings 9000 and see. Unfortunately, the Nielsen company’s own Web site still lists the number as 5,000 in one of its apparently out-of-date FAQ pages.]

The rest of your rant sounds like the typical cry baby whose shows are not doing well, so they blame it on the faulty Nielsen rating. “Nielsen claims they are pretty darned accurate”? So, you’ve never taken a statistics class before? Or you don’t beleive in the science of mathematics and statistics?

[Sure, I trust the mathematics behind the idea that a sample of only 9,000 can represent all 300,000,000 Americans — but that ONLY works if those 9,000 people are a proper cross-section. If all 9,000 were white, for example, with no minorities, then it wouldn’t be accurate, and it would have nothing to do with the math.

The sample would need to reflect different viewing habits, too. Not everyone sits down to watch a show at 8 p.m. every night with their spouse and 2.3 children. People tape shows, TiVo them, watch them in places other than home, etc. So the 9,000 would need to include some representation of those other types of people to remain accurate, too. And again, it has nothing to do with the math.]

The rest of just pure specualtion. You say that cetain shows will do better than otehrs when DVRs are reportewd. You are very ignornat on this entier subject. [Few things in this world delight me more than someone calling me ignorant and misspelling the word. So thanks for that.] Because while Nielsen didn’t use DVR figures, TIVO DID report their viewer’s habits. And guess what? There was NO significant difference between TVIO users and Nielsen families.

[The word “NO” probably should not have been capitalized so emphatically, since in fact there are some differences. Each week, TiVo lists the top 25 most TiVoed shows, based on a random sampling of 20,000 TiVo users’ “Season Pass” lists. (That’s the thing where you tell TiVo to record a particular show every week, automatically.) The top shows look about like the Nielsen top shows — except there’s “Family Guy,” for example, as the No. 8 most-TiVoed show last week, while Nielsen ranks it at No. 56. And “My Name Is Earl” is only 35 on Nielsen’s list, but 10 on TiVo’s. Or “The West Wing” at 63 in the Nielsens, 11 on TiVo. Or “Will & Grace,” also much higher on TiVo than Nielsen. But yes, other than that, there is NO significant difference.]

And that is logical to someone that has a brain. (Maybe some day medical science will help your qualify.) [Will help my qualify what?] If a show has such loyal viewers, they will be absolutely SURE to watch it as soon as possible, rather han lat TIVO record it. Whereas a casual fan will not care if he/she sees an episode of a show a few days later. A casual fan is MORE likely to let TIVO handle their viewing habits.

[See, and that’s highly illogical to me. Saying that people who use TiVo must not care about TV is like saying people with day-planners must not care about their appointments. Just because you write it down, or have a machine set to get it for you, doesn’t mean you don’t care. Quite the opposite! Someone who didn’t care wouldn’t bother to use a day-planner to keep track of his appointments; he’d just trust his memory. Similarly, someone who cares about his TV shows would be glad to have a reliable device to record them for him, so he doesn’t have to worry about forgetting, or being away from home, or whatever.

Watching an episode a few days later has nothing to do with being casual or devoted, either. Sure, people without TiVo watch shows the very minute they air. Why? Because they don’t have any choice. They don’t have TiVo! Many people with TiVo do watch them the same night, but later, after the kids have gone to bed, or whatever. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about the shows. If anything, it means they want to fully enjoy them without interruptions or distractions.]

Besides, your last comment shows how clueless you are. You ask Aren’t the loyal fans (what you consider the TIVO fans) the ones that the networks want?

The sanswer is obviously NO. [Um, I think you mean, “The sanswer is sobviously no.”] Do you really not understnad the whole concept behind the ratings system? It is used for ADVERTISING. Nothing else. People who TIVO don’t watch commercials. So networks really don’t care about them, nor should they. [I wrote a subsequent blog entry on that aspect, though no doubt you were busy uninstalling your Spellcheck program and failed to notice it.]

Why do you think the Nielsen ratings are the ONLY ratings used? They have no monopoly or anything. Other companies are free to compete with them if they came up with a better system. But they don’t. Becuase other companies know it is pointless. The Nielsen ratings ARE accurate. The best proof of this is that advertisers STILL use them. [Or maybe the only reason advertisers still use them is that they don’t have any choice, because no one has come up with a better system.] People far smarter than you (which is easy) do studies. And htey know that when they advertise on a show with a high rating, they see a larger increase in sales than when they advertise on a show with a low rating. Ifthey didn’t find this to be the case, then advertisers would stop paying the Nielsen company MILLIONS of dollars to use their survey results.

[Here’s where he goes off the rails altogether….]

It is clear you are just a crybaby who actually rthink that Letterman is even 1/10000th as funny as he used to be. You must have the mentality that you laugh at watching something float in water. (The kind of crap Letterman used to mock on his old show.) Or maybe you are brainwashed by the fact that his audience cheers and applauds at every little thing Letterman says and does. (Something in which Letterman used to respond with “you people are STARVED for entertainment”) You think that Family Guy is popular, despite it getting low ratings STILL, even with ridiculous amountf os hype for its return. (Ifyou are a fan, sorry to say that it is in danger of being cancelled AGAIN, and this time for good. Which is a good thing since pop culture references are NOT the samr ting as comedy.)

As TIVO is counted, Desperate Housewives ratings will not go down. Arrested Development’s ratings will NOT got up. War at Home’s ratings will not go down. Not significantly anyway. Everything will stay pretty much the same.

Seriously, I know this is nothing more than a sissy little diary written by someone with the mentality of 12 year old girl, but shouldn’t you at least get SOME facts before ranting?

I’m always amazed at the amount of anger people are able to work up on the most trivial subjects. I mean, my blog about the flawed rating system was impassioned, I suppose, but I don’t think any of it was ANGRY. Yet here’s this e-mail from someone who is MAD!! He apparently hates TiVo, he apparently loves the Nielsen company, and he apparently types with three fingers and doesn’t use Spellcheck.

For the record, here are some statistics:

Number of times he accuses me of having my facts wrong: 6
Number of facts I actually got wrong: 0
Number of times he insults me on a personal level: 6
Number of times I insulted him on a personal level in my original blog: 0
Number of words misspelled in his e-mail: 20
Number of words misspelled in my original blog entry: 0

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