Media measurement must work for everyone

A healthy media industry requires measurement integrity—reliable, accurate, unbiased and inclusive media measurement that works for everyone, and measures everybody, everywhere.

That means a system that is built to ensure inclusion and representation of all Americans, enable true comparability across all platforms and deduplicate audiences, utilize the most advanced data science, deliver wholly unbiased results and evolve measurement standards.

Read about our commitment to media measurement that works for everyone.

Understand the facts about the present and future of media measurement.

MYTH: Panels are outdated; measurement with big data is all that is necessary.

BUSTED: Nielsen’s panel measurement is the only method that allows for geographically and demographically representative data. Validating big data with a robust panel ensures full representation of the country’s dramatically changing demographics.

MYTH: Nielsen’s methodologies are outdated.

BUSTED: Sample science is a proven and time-tested way to understand consumer media behavior and Nielsen’s observational panel is the key to unlocking any big data set in the most representative way possible. During the last year, Nielsen has made many strides in enhancing our products and methodologies to brace the industry for continued and rapid technological change as linear TV and streaming converge. Some of these have been our identity resolution initiative, our launch of The Gauge—which showcases streaming alongside broadcast and cable in a comparable fashion—or even our approach to cookie deprecation.

MYTH: Nielsen hasn’t innovated in decades.

BUSTED: Nielsen has been in a constant cycle of innovation and reinvention since we started, which is why our ratings remain the currency today. Recently, we’ve been responsible for many breakthrough measurement technologies, including transforming our digital solutions, rolling out our identity solutions and measuring streaming content and platforms. Nielsen is now reinventing audience measurement again with its upcoming Nielsen One service. Learn more about Nielsen ONE.

MYTH: Everyone wants a measurement system with measurement integrity.

BUSTED: Some parties would rather exert control over the industry and rely on existing measurement systems that exclude millions of people from their calculations out of desire to ignore widely recognized trends and hang onto the status quo. True, transparent currency metrics require independent, third-party measurement that can deliver trustworthy data that all facets of the industry can reliably transact on.

MYTH: Nielsen has a history of systematically fudging its television viewership data.

BUSTED: Nielsen has a long track record of providing reliable and accurate measurement data for the media industry. Due to unprecedented and extenuating COVID-related circumstances in early 2021, our panel size was reduced, resulting in undercounted viewership by 2-6% in some markets. We have acknowledged the mistake and since then we have taken actions to ensure the error does not happen again.

Myth: Nielsen’s panel size is not large enough to accurately report media measurement.

BUSTED: During the peak of COVID-19, while we were prioritizing the health and safety of our employees and our panelists, Nielsen’s panel size in the U.S. decreased to 36,900 from approximately 47,000 at the start of the pandemic. Even with a smaller panel, the integrity of the data remained and we stand firmly behind it. Since then, we have added 2,500 homes, and we have a plan to accelerate our panel recovery efforts to exceed the Media Rating Council (MRC) household minimum of 41,600 homes by Q1 2022 and further expand the sample by 15% by Q2 2023. 

MYTH: Nielsen undercounted multicultural audiences during COVID.

BUSTED: False. Nielsen is deeply committed to accurately representing the full diversity of consumers. Because of Nielsen’s proven methodologies, impacts to our panel due to COVID were similar in nature across all demographics. Our panels are aligned with representation across all audiences, even in small Designated Market Areas (or geographic areas as DMAs). We have an External Advisory Board to govern our audience representation and remain confident that we actually capture the market accurately. 

MYTH: Demos become arbitrary when you can measure actual sales or business goals.

BUSTED: Regardless of brand lift or outcomes, it’s crucial that marketers and media owners know and understand who is watching both programming content as well as the advertising messages within that content. For brand advertisers and media planners, demos and frequencies are a critical input. Likewise, having a representative persons-based measurement via a Nielsen’s observational panel is the key to be able to do so. Cookies, IP addresses, TV set-top-box data sets are great, but those automations do not purchase products, people do. Our panels inform and validate true targets exposed to media and, when linked to outcomes, supports true business outcomes metrics.

MYTH: Nielsen stopped performing in-home maintenance during COVID.

BUSTED: During COVID, Nielsen followed the recommended guidelines by federal, state and local governments in accordance with the CDC and other local health and safety recommendations and continues to do so. Panelist and employee safety remain paramount. However, Nielsen never stopped visiting homes during this time, we simply innovated our approach to panel maintenance and engagement, such as by making proximity visits to homes without entering them, via video chats and even helping panelists by installing next-gen metering technologies. In addition to face to face interactions with panelists, we have tested for remote recruitment via web and phone.

MYTH: Nielsen had panel issues prior to COVID.

BUSTED: This is not true. Nielsen remains confident in the integrity of our data and measurement services.  We are committed to maintaining high-quality panels that deliver persons-level data, as an integral component of our approach to measurement. Nielsen remains committed to working alongside the MRC and we fully support the audit process. We are working to remediate issues raised by the MRC while building a media future that accurately measures and reflects the consumer cross-platform journey and keeps pace with the rapid advancements in technology.