Sound Off! Week – Hey! Nielsen – Is it Making a Difference?

I have to apologize for not being able to post yesterday: I’m currently working with the students’ union as part of some pre-faculty strike preparations, so that took up a great deal of my time. As a result, I’m going to set us back a few days and finish this series on Sunday with some final recommendations. But, before I head out for the weekend, I want to leave what I think are some of the most important statements that Jericho and Supernatural fans made to me in their responses.

The reality is that Hey! Nielsen is a social networking site with a purpose: to better inform the Nielsen Company and their advertisers/partners about what parts of television, movies, etc. are most popular. The site is sold as a way to take the example of Jericho’s fandom to the next level, and this is why Jericho and Supernatural fans rushed to the new medium.

But the problem that the site faces is that it has no proof (as of this writing) that this is actually making a difference. There is no tangible return on their involvement: they spend a week pouring their hearts out about their favourite show, but did that make a difference? And, if it didn’t, why should they bother with this site when they’re already posting on message boards or on LiveJournal in the same fashion?

I know that the site doesn’t purport to have a direct impact on Nielsen ratings, but I think that the “purpose” of the site has led to a great deal of disinterest in its development. It’s one thing to post on a message board, such as the CBS Jericho Message Boards: you know you’re making a difference, but you have no illusion of your post being read by Nina Tassler and for Jericho to receive a third season order in the process.

But when you post on Hey! Nielsen, there is that illusion: that, in some way, being #1 on this site could be a breakthrough for your fandom. But then nothing happens: Supernatural’s ratings haven’t seen any sort of spike, Jericho doesn’t have a timeslot yet, and the Dresden Files (Newcomers to the Hey! Nielsen game, and to this blog. Welcome!) still remains canceled. People see this and, for obvious reasons, start to wonder if it was all a waste of time.

What Hey! Nielsen needs to do now is give its users at least some sense that someone is listening: I don’t care if it’s a PR letter from the head of the Nielsen Company, the first in its user-led focus groups being announced, or something to prove that they’re paying attention. A social networking site that purports to being a megaphone for fans to extend their views to a more important audience is a novel concept, but there needs to be some reciprocity in the relationship.

For now, here are what Jericho and Supernatural Fans thought of the site’s future differences, read below. If you have your own thoughts from the perspective of another fan group, let us know in the comments below!

From Supernatural Fan Sandy:

I suppose so, since that’s what the Nielsen people claim they started it for. I don’t know exactly what they’ll count *for*. I’d be really interested in hearing what the Nielsen people had in mind for this site, because so far, I can’t see where they’re going with it.

From Franzi, another Supernatural fan:

…many shows with apparently poor ratings are watched by college students who are both difficult to measure with Nielsen boxes and present in large numbers on social networking websites. The excessive number of “opinions” about Supernatural are there because the fans are a bit too rabid, but I do think the fanbase is quite large, so the number of *ratings* would be large regardless.

Jericho fan Starfire:

I would hope that participation is counted or fan base is counted fairly and fully.

Jericho fan WelcometoCO:

I’m hoping that networks like CBS will look to gauge successes with something other than the current flawed Nielsen system. So, I’m conflicted, and I don’t know what the panacea is. I do want to say, though, that I truly appreciate Nielsen’s efforts to consider and expand its methods of measurement.

Other Jericho fans all hoped that the site would be counting their views, which is a positive hope to have.

Supernatural Fan Brande:

I don’t know. I would hope in some way they do. But we all know networks do whatever they want anyway. Look how many critically acclaimed shows never got a fair shake. (Fox is the worst example of this…) I think if we just get them to understand we’re sick of the glut of “reality” tv and forensic/criminal/medico dramas, I’d be happy. How many CSI’s do we really need anyway?

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One response to “Sound Off! Week – Hey! Nielsen – Is it Making a Difference?

  1. I guess I’m a little pessimistic about the use or planned use of the site by Nielsen. I tend to think that this site will be used to ‘study’ the media and *eventually* some form of this type of preference collecting will be included/incorporated in the ratings-collection process. Eventually. For now, it’s my hope that there will be enough curiosity about the site and it’s traffic on the part of both the television and advertising industries that they will check in and see what’s going on. Perhaps, while they’re doing that, our loyalty & passion will have a positive effect on our efforts.

    The sad and frustrating part is that if the television industry exercised a modicum of customer service by listening and responding to their viewers, they would be MUCH more likely to have the loyal audience that they keep decrying the disappearance of.

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