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Mark Toney's Articles

Nielsen Viewer Assignment – Three Action Steps to Consider Right Now

Effective December 31, 2015 demographic data reported by Nielsen in all but the top 25 TV markets will be unaccredited. The move follows Nielsen's decision to drop paper diaries -- a nearly century-old measurement method -- for estimating the demographic composition of audiences in its 31 "set-metered" market ratings and all 154 diary only markets to begin using new, as-yet-unaccredited methods for calculating who is watching television. In place of the paper diaries, Nielsen has introduced a new method, a mathematical modeling technique that Nielsen calls “viewer assignment” that extrapolates audience estimates.

In a nutshell, the viewer assignment method mathematically models and ascribes audience estimates for non-people meter markets with data generated from its people meter sample. The new viewer assignment method is treating the behaviors of people in one sample -- the national people meter respondents -- in a way that is representative of viewers in non-people meter households. This new methodology is meant to derive demographic data for stations in smaller markets from larger local people-meter markets, some located far away.

We could use this space and reams of paper to discuss the pros and cons of this approach – but we won’t. Viewer Assignment is here and now the question is what does your station do about it.

Here are three key items and action steps your station needs to take now that Viewer Assignment is here.

Late News Weather for May Sweeps

Weather. It’s May sweeps again – severe weather season in many parts of the country is already upon us. Weather. How much more is there that we can say about weather? Weather. In your planning for sweeps have you brought together news managers and weather teams to talk about how weather will recruit viewers and drive ratings in May – especially to late news?

As a SmithGeiger client you certainly have known for some time that weather is the number one reason for watching local news. But did you also know that weather now is one of the main reasons for changing the channel or turning off the TV? In many cases, weather is the number one cause of repetition in our local newscasts from daypart to daypart. This means viewers will actually turn the channel to see what the other meteorologists have to say. Do your viewers see the same weathercast in late news they saw at 6 p.m.? If so, you are in danger of creating an ejection point at a critical juncture in the newscast.

As you prepare for the May rating period – we believe one strategic move you should make is to take time to look at what you are going to do to win late news weather. More than likely it is time to recalculate how we present late news weather.

A Weather Primer for the Morning Executive Producer

In a world where the fastest growing weather consumption is on mobile, the morning Executive Producer’s role (as well as the morning meteorologist) is to create an environment and convey to the viewer that your weathercasts are there to help them plan their day as they get ready to head out the door. These nuances and the expertise is something the viewer cannot get from an app.

With the weather changing more often and its impact on the commuter playing a bigger role on a daily basis, it is important for morning newscasts to constantly evolve and augment what the viewer sees on their digital device in the morning. The key to understanding viewers’ very high interest in morning weather is to understand that they are looking to you to help them plan their day….in a language they can clearly understand. Yes, it can still be detailed, precise weather information….but it has to be about clearly helping the viewer to understand how weather will unfold throughout the next 12 hours.