The year 2012 is coming to and end and TV advertising still foots most of the bill for your favorite broadcast network shows and pays for a whole lot of your cable favorites too. From a ratings perspective advertisers care about how many people watch their commercials.
One simple way to think about why the newly announced Nielsen/Twitter ratings won't matter much to advertisers is this: Twitter can skew --some might say "be gamed"-- in ways the Nielsen TV ratings (as opposed to the newly announced Nielsen TV Twitter ratings) can't be. A relatively small audience (compared to say, NCIS or The Voice) can make an outsized amount of noise on Twitter as it is. I look forward (I'm not kidding) to the torrent of "RT to Save Our Show <insert show here>!!! IT WILL BE COUNTED" that will be unleashed on us all.
But as far as the TV advertisers are concerned the loud cries on Twitter will only matter if they make a difference in terms of the number of people who actually watch their commercials and if that happens it will show up in the regular Nielsen TV ratings anyway.
The new measurement makes a lot of sense for almost everyone involved.
They make a boatload of sense for Twitter: "Look at us now. We've got Britney, Lebron, The Kardashians, The Pope and Nielsen! We're a big part of the television landscape!" And there's no doubt that Twitter actually is a big part about the discussion of television shows on the Internet. But discussion does not equal payment.
It makes sense a boatload of sense for the networks. Twitter is basically free marketing and PR for the networks and their shows. While I speculate that the networks probably don't need the additional metric to figure out how to best manage their internal and external social networking resources, the new measurement can help with that too. And of course there is the opportunity for stuff like this: "The New #1 Hit Show on Twitter!" It's brilliant!
The new measurement makes sense for Nielsen, too. It's another product it can sell. Nielsen can say "hey, we're not stuck in 1965. We're hip to the times!" But my favorite part is the opportunity to give a lot of people the illusion that their voice matters. "Tweet and you will be counted!" It will all be true, they will count you in their twitter metric.
But unless and until it matters to the advertisers, it won't make any difference at all in terms of which shows get cancelled and renewed. Some will say: "bah, nobody watches TV anymore and the current advertising model is going away!" But plenty of people told us that five years ago before we even launched this site. Five years later and people are still watching a boatload of TV. Lots of people are talking about TV shows on Twitter, and that wasn't the case five years ago. But TV advertising, not Twitter, is still footing most of the bill.
Yep, I know TV advertising isn't paying for your HBO, Showtime, etc. pay channel favorites. But Twitter isn't paying for those either. You are!