Here Comes Nielsen!
This is the third segment of the 5 part saga.
Fast forward, from 1992 to 2016
This is the tale of the haggard statistical madam named, “Nielsen,” and her legacy media riding a dinosaur into the 21st century. Henceforth, the 20th century legacy media shall be called, “Jurassic Media.”
Over the years I have filled out many media diaries and statistical questionnaires. The statistical knock off companies and their questionnaires always leave me feeling used, like a cheap date. The knock offs are often just marketing database dragnets, or political opinion polls, building cheap databases for quick sale to marketing companies. The gritty questionnaires are like carnival barkers scraping a living together on nickels and dimes.
They’re just wannabes, unlike the Cadillac and BMW of ratings and analysis, Arbitron and Nielsen.
So my excitement explodes when my son reads out the name on the caller I.D. from the old landline-handheld phone, “A.C. Nielsen.”
“Pick it up, quick. Answer the phone!” I shout in a panic, not wanting to miss a golden learning opportunity.
And as my sampling fortune has it, I am soon in dialogue with the A.C. Nielsen company representative.
“Yes, yes, I will be happy to fill out a diary! Is there anything else I can do for you?” She must think I’m a weirdo.
Should I ask for a meter? No, stop it. I still pine over my long-lost Arbitron Mistress.
The Nielsen lady, well girl actually, is very nice. I instruct my second son to pick up a second phone. He is a videographer-editor working in the media production business at 15, and working on a feature film shooting in the area, the next generation Media Professor.
“Pick up and listen to my conversation with Nielsen. It will be a great education,” I instruct him while cupping the receiver with my hand. No mute button needed on this old handset. I’m a savvy old Jurassic Media Professor with legacy technology.
My son jumps on the second line and listens to me chatting with Nancy. I’ll call her, “Nancy.” “Nancy Nielsen” has a nice ring to it.
I answer all of Nancy’s questions as she interviews me from a script. And I ask her questions too. I tell her my son is listening in to learn, and I am an old college media professor. She tells me where she is from and we have a nice dialogue going. Needless to say, I pass the interview without problems. I’m an old pro at this.
The interview and vetting is certainly not as extensive for a paper diary as a meter in the home. There is obviously no surprise visit for the diary. Of course, I no longer have any subscriptions to Broadcasting or Billboard on my coffee table, no need for panic.
Allow me to share some interesting points from Nancy Nielsen’s interrogation. She is steadfast in her questioning, from the script. And she wants to know a few interesting details. Interesting to me only, of course. She’s in a hurry to move on to the next sampled household.
“Do you have cable TV?” Nancy asks.
“Well, no but how do you define it?” I reply. Fair question, one would think in the 21st century.
Nancy pauses. She is in new territory here. The interview just wandered from the script and the sampled household just asked a tough question. She is speaking with the Jurassic Media Professor, but I am kind and courteous, and having a blast. Nancy pauses, silent for a moment, so I decide to answer my own question.
“I have Internet service through my telephone company. I watch plenty of broadcast television through the Internet. I have Netflix, iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and can access many of the traditional commercial and cable broadcasters’ content through the Internet, including my local PBS station. So I do have television delivered by a cable, so to speak. It is a wire cable,” I finish my lecture and pause for Nancy, now my unwitting student.
The fact is, I have not subscribed to CATV service since 1996. Telco bandwidth is sufficient. I receive all my video entertainment content via web delivery (HD included), including iTunes, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.
Over a decade ago I also ditched my digital broadcast antennae. With the web, I don’t need CATV, or an antennae, period. I stream and order shows from the web, that is all.
My massive DVD collection is now digitized and sits on a hard drive along with all the music from my CDs, and home movies, all playable through iTunes, delivered to every viewing device through my own home wireless network. It helps to be a networking dude. The Jurassic Media Professor isn’t so “Jurassic” in some ways, now back to the story.
“Well, that makes sense,” Nancy politely responds and ticks off the okay with cable TV.
Being an old salty media pro, I know that in the age of cell phones, Nielsen is lucky to find someone to answer a landline call. I also know most people don’t agree to do the diaries. If they do agree, once they get the paper things, read the directions, scribble a few lines, they end up in the trashcan.
Oh, but everyone keeps the freshly minted two dollar bills in the mailer, with nary a twang of guilt. I could never do such a thing. I could never do such a thing. I work my ass off for the two bucks.
“How many TVs do you have?” Nancy asks, still reading from her script.
“How do you define TVs?” I reply, throwing Nancy for a loop again.
“Ummm,” Nancy pauses again, wondering where this is going to take her.
I jump in once again with the rescue. I help the young gal who is just following her script.
“I have eight viewers in my household. They watch video content on iPods, iPads, iPhones, laptops, computer screens, and there is also one big TV we use, but it is also connected to a computer, Apple TV, Sony TV, and we stream to it from a video server. So probably somewhere in the ballpark of 20 so-called TVs, give or take a few. Does that help, Nancy?”
“Well, we can send you up to six diaries,” she responds politely.
“Great, no problem,” I reply, gushing with excitement.
My, my things have changed so much since 1992 when I was an Arbitron home. Nancy was probably not even born in that year.
My experience with Nielsen is intriguing thus far. The questions asked, the script Nancy reads, and her answers make me feel like I am on a retro 70’s trip.
Perhaps the diaries will arrive with the milkman, or Roy Rogers will deliver it on his horse to my doorstep. I eventually discover that my media throwback senses are correct. More to come!
One last note. It is with great sadness that I report my beloved Arbitron is acquired by Nielsen in September, 2013. Nooooo!
Now, conquer the day!
Oh, and go cancel your cable tier package subscription. Please don’t feed the mega-corporate media monsters, thank you.
The Jurassic Media Professor
“Copyright © 12MAR17 by Steven A. Schwab”