Ratings data more sophisticated…and scary?

It’s a reality that some TV newsrooms live and die by the numbers. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, Nielsen will soon be offering “second-by-second” ratings information to some clients, and the cable companies’ set-top boxes have made this all possible.

Under the deal with Charter Communications, Nielsen receives information from 320,000 households in Los Angeles and then develops second-by-second data that it can sell to clients like media agencies and advertisers.

The article focuses primarily on the fact that this data will provide more accurate information to marketers, but this development surely has ramifications for news organizations, too.

For example, what if the data were used to try to help determine the optimal length of a news story? Could the data help us evaluate the point at which a particular story lost viewers, and with more study might we begin to understand why? In combination with demographic information, could the data be used to refine content targeting? Hmmm, now I’m getting nervous.

Though I do think this type of information could be of great value, if used judiciously, I can’t help but worry that some newsrooms might use it to become even more formulaic and tied to ratings gimmicks than they already are.

What about you?


Generating audience through social networks

Web networks image by D’Arcy NormanJournalists who blog and encourage their readers to comment can learn a lot from their audience. But if you really want to build an audience, says senior producer Shawn Smith of the Michigan newspaper site MLive.com, you also have to interact on social networks. On his New Media Bytes blog, Smith encourages journalists to use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to connect with people who share their interests. He’s also a big fan of social bookmarking:

Social bookmarking sites are the often-overlooked social networks. But these can be some of the most powerful. Try out the Mahalo Share Firefox Add-on and the Shareaholic FF add-on to make social bookmarking easier. After becoming a regular bookmarker, people will recognize your savvy eye for indexing the web. Just make sure you’re not only bookmarking your own stuff.

Guess I’m going to have to try it.