Come On Kids, Finish Your Diaries

This is the last segment of the five part saga.

Dateline: February, 2016 continued

If reading through this series is difficult, it pales in comparison to the daunting process of writing in tiny squares and columns to record viewing habits in the little paper diary booklet. Perhaps the person that designed the booklet does airline seating industrial design on the side.

Human beings in the fifties, when they first used this tiny booklet, were smaller. They were 4’11” on average with really tiny hands and munchkin pencils. There were better pencil sharpeners back then. The pencil could be shaved to diamond sharp point without the damned graphite falling out. Did they use better glue in those days? Everything was smaller back then, except TV antennae.

Printing tiny diaries since 1948

The worst part, the most challenging part, the most bizarre, mind-twisting, hand-wringing, Jurassic Media Professor detective-befuddling thing about the Nielsen Diary, is the 1950’s language applied to 21st century media.

The Jurassic Media Professor is determined to battle through this throwback document and record something of use for the A.C. Nielsen companies statistical needs, damn it! And the family is going to help me. I’m your huckleberry, Nielsen. Who’s with me?

Well, my 18, 16 and 14-year-old sons commit to filling out diaries, and my 13 and 10-year-old girls are going to do one jointly. I’m filling one out too. One diary I’m keeping for future reference, research, and an article of course.

So, first thing, kids, read the diary instructions. Being a role model, I settle into my favorite chair and begin to pour through the step-by-step guide in the Nielsen diary. We already covered STEP 1 in the Saga, part 4. Let’s study STEP 2 now. By the way, there are 4 pages of instructions.


“Write in all the local TV stations this set receives.”

Oh, geez…

What the hell is local nowadays? UHF stations? VHF stations? My kids have no concept what the hell “local” means. I don’t use a TV antennae to pull in local broadcasts. Do they still exist? I mean sure, iPods, iPads, iPhones, PCs, laptops, AppleTV, my wireless router, and modem all have antennae, but they sure as hell don’t pick up local TV broadcast signal, capiche? Well I suppose I can count my wireless hub as a local broadcast, which it kind of is when I think about it. I’m over thinking this thing.

Kids, tonight’s movie choice…

PBS is kinda local, but my kids pull down PBS fare via Netflix, Apple TV, YouTube, and iTunes. Is it local broadcasting? Well, what server does the programming originate from?

All sixties media language… must – translate – for – the – children. I make a mental note here for further translation for my kids. I’m only on the first line of the second page of instructions. This is not good.

In the listing it requests the diarist to enter “channel number,” “station call letters,” and “city.” Seriously? What, “channel number,” like an IP address? “Station call letters?” More Jurassic Media terminology. I translate it for my kids with an example, “Netflix,” or “YouTube.” And city? Okay, I am not looking up the location of YouTube’s headquarters, and their signal reaches my house from a local server anyhow, but there is no antennae anywhere, so how do I fill out this column? “Just skip it kids.”

Yet another throw back term in the next box, “cable set top box.”

My oldest is 18 at this time, he has never seen a cable set top box. He wouldn’t know one if it jumped up and bit him. My translation: “It’s kind of like the wireless modem hub, but it used to have switches on it.”

Well, the kids can Google a picture of one on the web. Moving along to the next page.

Here it is, remember


Okay, this one is easy to figure out. Enter people in boxes. We have a big family so we take up all but one column here. There is no room for many “visitors.” Now to the next page, Step 4.


Holy hell, Batman! What is all this? For the love of Pete, what do we do here?

“Dad, I don’t understand this. Dad, dad, DAD?” I can hear the kids now.

I lock myself in my room, send the kids away, and use all the cognitive power my Jurassic Media Professor brain can muster to figure out the twisted logic of this ancient relic of television gone-by. I so want my children born in the post-Jurassic Media era to be of some assistance to A.C. Nielsen company, really I do.

It takes me hours and several martinis, shaken not stirred, to wrestle an approach to the ground that my kids understand.

WC Fields

“Before TV, I would just watch my Martini glass.”

Once I finish translating sixties media jargon, I do my best to coach the kids through the gauntlet of translated sixties lingo to modern jargon. I should put a Ward Cleaver sweater on as I coach them. Where are my slippers? Crocs will do.

“Kids please write in pencil, so I can help you with any corrections,” I direct them and cover my bases.

Following is a quick list of my translations from A.C. Nielsen sixties jargon to modern speak.

A.C. Nielsen Speak                       Jurassic Media Professor’s Translation

“TV Set” ……………………………………..    Any screen you watch stuff on.

“Station”  ……………………………….     Web sites such like YouTube, NetFlix,

“Channel Name” ……………………….    AppleTV, NetFlix Amazon Prime, Facebook, etc.

“Channel Number” ……………………    IP Address? – “Fuggetaboutit”

“Name of Program or Movie” ……..  YouTube content description; titles, etc.


The Jurassic Media Professor’s Answers to Kid’s Nielsen Diary FAQs

Q: “Dad, what if I am watching two screens at once? I like to watch YouTube with my iPhone when I’m watching stuff on my PC, or the big TV. What do I write on by diary?”

A: “Just record one show for the diary. Pick one, for god’s sake.”

Q: “Dad, I put on YouTube for the music while I watch or click through lots of other stuff. Do I write “YouTube” on the diary if I am not even looking at it much and just listening to songs?”

A: “Your call, kid.”

Q: “ Dad, I hardly watch stuff for 5 minutes. I jump around all the time. What do I enter in the 5 minute time slots?”

A: “Whatever you want to enter, but Nielsen only counts in 5 minute blocks. Just pick something.”

Q: “Dad, do I really need to fill this out? I don’t understand it.”

A: “God, the government, and Disney need us to perform this service for duty and humanity.” I morph into Ward Cleaver talking to my children, but I use the Three Stooges phrases.

I become the Nielsen Diary detective, enforcer, and translator in order to complete the mission. I must interview each diarist, monitor, and assist them in filling much of it out. Erase, re-write, erase, re-write.

I work damned hard for the two bucks mailed from Nielsen! How about a dinner certificate next time? Bottle of gin? Club membership? Tickets to a game show?

BTW, the kids do not understand the purpose of listing several viewers on their personal diary. The one exception is the big screen in the living room assigned to the two girls for diary recording. But every other viewing platform is a personal media viewing device for the most part.

“Master” bedroom? 60’s lingo…

And thank you Nielsen, the diary directions for working with VCRs, very beneficial. It provides a great opportunity for a history lesson with my children, a good teaching moment.

Finally, I gather the amended, corrected, translated, and completed (best as possible) diaries from each family participant and send them via snail mail, as requested, back to A.C. Nielsen.

Mission accomplished.

The throwback and retro activity is great fun, for me, the Jurassic Media Professor. It is the most fun I have ever experienced for only two dollars.

Now I can relax and watch my favorite show on the “console.” My work is finished.

TV Console

The vintage console… epic…


Dear Nielsen Diary-Reviewer Person:

As you review the diary where two of my girls view “X-Men: Evolution” animation episodes, over and over again on iTunes, night after night, for a whole week, it’s real. They turn the sound down and do their own voice overs for the show. I’m not quite sure if this helps with ratings or shares in any significant statistical way, but in this second decade of the 21st century, it’s like the wild, wild, west out here in TV land.

THE END of the Saga…

Now, conquer the day!

Oh, and go cancel your cable tier package subscription. Please don’t feed the mega corporate media monsters, thank you.

Yours Truly,

The Jurassic Media Professor

“Copyright © 25MAR17 by Steven A. Schwab”