06.19.2006 08:00 AM
Nielsen to track viewing beyond broadcast platform

In a move that could have major implications for television stations, Nielsen Media Research announced last week that it will abandon media viewing measurement by handwritten diaries and expand its tracking to new platforms, including computers, iPods, video game players and mobile phones.

The handwritten diaries, distributed to families in certain markets during sweeps weeks, will completely disappear within five years, Nielsen said.

Through a range of new electronic monitoring methods, Nielsen will begin to track content regardless of platform. “Digital technology is driving changes in the way people watch television and is enabling Nielsen to follow them,” Gary Holmes, a Nielsen spokesman, told ABC News.

Paper diaries have long been criticized as inaccurate, though the entire advertising-based broadcast industry is shaped by their results. Nielsen's move is an attempt to improve measurement accuracy in a fast changing media landscape.

Holmes added that this will create a broader, deeper and more accurate representation of the way in which people watch TV.

Called the Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement (A2/M2) initiative, Nielsen said key components of the new system will include in-home television viewing through Active/Passive (A/P) metering technology; measurement of online streaming video as well as the addition of Internet measurement in Nielsen's People Meter samples; and the addition of out-of-home measurement in People Meter samples.

The new system will include the introduction of electronic measurement in all local markets, targeted for 2011. This will require, Nielsen said, the development of new meters to measure video viewed on portable media devices and the creation of new research for measuring viewer “engagement” in TV programming.

Nielsen's multifaceted approach will begin to answer many of the questions swirling around the industry as commercial television is being virtually reinvented around the digital revolution in video, Reuters reported.

One of the most intriguing elements of Nielsen's plan, Reuters said, is the integration of TV and online measurement, by tracking video programming delivered on the Web through its Nielsen/NetRatings unit, and adding the Internet to its own national People Meter sample to give the industry what could be its first comprehensive look at viewing on TV and broadband.

Nielsen also is developing meters that track viewing on portable devices, and will by year's end have a 400-member iPod user panel in place. That, along with the television and Internet measurements, could provide a statistical look at the impact of iPod downloads or streaming video on overall television viewing.

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