Sunday, July 22, 2007

Jericho, Nielsen, and You

There continues to be much talk regarding the Nielsen ratings so I am going to do a series to try and help all of us understand them better. While ratings are not my main focus they are a spoke in the wheel. The summer repeats of Jericho have not had the best numbers and the Fall season numbers are extremely important.I don't want to wait until Fall to learn how to fight the Nielsen ratings system if necessary. We'll look at the history of the company, how homes are selected, tools, and more. We must understand what we're up against if we one day decide to take on this battle.

Arthur Nielsen began his career testing products for manufacturing clients to ensure they performed up to specifications. Companies then had no way of knowing how best to spend their advertising dollars. Soon after, Arthur Nielsen essentially founded the field of market research by visiting sample stores in various geographic areas in order to track the movement of different brands then told clients how well their products were doing against the competition.
He inaugurated a National Radio Index for broadcasters and advertisers in 1942, followed by a television ratings service in 1950.

First, Nielsen scientifically selects a group of households that mirrors the population at large. Samples include homes from all 50 states. There are people from cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas. There are homeowners and apartment dwellers — some with children and some without — across a broad range of demographic categories. Nielsen includes people of all ages, income groups, geographic areas, ethnicities and educational levels — all in proportion to their presence in the population at large. Once homes are selected and agree to participate, great care is taken to protect their identity and privacy, and no data about individuals or specific households are ever disclosed.

Can you volunteer? No. Nielsen says, "To include volunteers would violate basic laws of random sampling practice and skew our results. A truly representative sample of the population can only be generated using statistical methods of selection."
Wikipedia defines a simple random sample as "a group of subjects (a sample) chosen from a larger group (a population). Each subject from the population is chosen randomly and entirely by chance, such that each subject has the same probability of being chosen at any stage during the sampling process. This process and technique is known as Simple Random Sampling."

How does Nielsen select a household?
Households are selected through one of two different methods:
1. Geographic selection (area probability sampling) in the national sample and larger markets.
2. Randomly-generated telephone numbers (Total Telephone Frame) in smaller markets.

Nielsen's statistical research department begins with broad, U.S. Census-defined geographic areas then they send field representatives to identify every housing unit in these areas, regardless of size or accessibility. Nielsen will then narrow the selection down to individual, randomly-selected housing units. Using this method, all households have an equal probability of selection into the sample. This allows for complete coverage of the country, since no homes are excluded by design.

"For Total Telephone Frame sampling, Nielsen's statistical research department uses random digit-dialing to generate a call list that includes both published and unpublished telephone numbers in a Designated Market Area (DMA). Rather than using recordings, our Call Center staffs in Florida and Kentucky personally make multiple attempts to reach households, ensuring that they have a chance to be included in the sample."

Tomorrow: Installing and monitoring meters.


Anonymous said...

My local CBS affiliate pre-empted JERICHO Friday night with a movie!!!
CBS wants us to help them by getting better numbers and more viewers and then their own network pre-empts the show!!
I am so very angry!!


P.S. THANK YOU for your great article!!

SaveJake said...

Another great read! Thank you...

Long Live Jericho

Jericho Saved said...

Pre-empted?! That's infuriating. How do they expect us to keep the ratings up?? I'm angry too. Last week Jericho was pre-empted in some areas by a ballgame. Thanks for your comment.
Thank you so much.

morinn said...

hehe... long live Jericho!