|POSTED MARCH 21, 1998--Finally, America gets the choice it deserves! In a country where choice is
everything and everything is on TV, doesn't it just make sense that there should be a
choice in television ratings services? To us the answer is obvious, and that answer
In launching The Schmielsens ("Counting Eyeballs, Two at a Time"), our goal is not to sink Nielsen, our industry-leading big brotheralthough one model of our business plan called for just that, and believe me, it would be much easier than you thinkbut rather, we hope to add some sanity to an expensive, anachronistic and ultimately very undemocratic way of dictating WHAT YOU WATCH!
The Schmielsens person-to-person approach is the culmination of a century's worth of refinements in the measurement of audiences large and small. Combining the near-august traditions of audience measurement and telemarketing, along with the two most important devices in the pre-millennial household, the teles (phone and vision), we simply phone people up and ask them what theyre watching. How novel, how perfectly accurate and ultimately, how potentially dangerous (especially when trying to find out if anyone is watching Stan Turner at 3 a.m.!)
Unlike the Nielsens, which employ an impersonal set-top box and diary system to measure viewing habits, The Schmielsens is on the leading edge of an industry-wide trend to combine technology and humanity, by actually talking on the phone, person-to-person, with our fellow citizen/consumers. We simply ask them what they are watching at any given minute. And if theyre surfing, we catch them at the top of the wave, not in fifteen minute increments like our beach-bound competitor (many industry observers openly refer to this as Nielsens "Fifteen Minutes of Shame.")
In addition to
bucking this more personalized trend in audience measurement, Nielsen relies on a
piddlingly small sample (about 5000 out of 100 million US households) to protect their
near-monopoly. (We say near monopoly, because pre-launch interest in The
Schmielsens has been rather high. One industry trade magazine suggested that we might be
the boutique audience measurement service that some of the hotter, more
attitudinally-driven advertising agencies are beginning to demand.)
And what is The Schmielsen methodology? Not surprisingly, it's something straight out of the New Simplicity Movement; Call 52 people (One person from each letter of the alphabet in the Minneapolis and St. Paul phone directories) between 10 and 10:30 p.m. and record their responses to the question, "Are you watching TV, and if so, what?" We did; heres what we found out, and how it compares to what they found out.
*Ratings Period--February 23 to February 27
The Schmielsen's first-ever sweeps survey confirmed the industry-wide belief that the person-to-person approach really does represent the future of television audience measurement. The most significant variation between our findings and theirs concerned the top-rated newscasts, along with the previously mentioned fact that Nielsen tended to inflate the actual number of households watching, also, Nielsen was unable to offer hard data on the number of people sleeping at that hour. We wont say their numbers are flat-out wrong, but heres one example that speaks volumes about the qualitative difference between The Schmielsen and The Nielsen methods: a respondent told one of our senior researchers that he was watching the news (KARE 11), probably because he thought that is what we wanted to hear. But our researcher heard something that sounded like a wrestling match in the background, and probed deeper, asking the respondent, "Is this a bad time to call? It sounds like weve interrupted a fight." The respondent then revealed that he was actually watching The Jerry Springer Show, and not the KARE 11 newscast that finished first in the Nielsen ratings for that period! Night after night, call after call, a similar scenario was repeated and eventually, the truth came out. For us at The Schmielsens, there are no winners and losers, just the recognition of a job well done, an appreciation for the truth and our thanks to you, the viewer, for helping us to obtain it. And remember, when Schmielsen calls, the truth is on the line.
--Mike Tronnes, for The Schmielsens