Nielsen Wise to Take Closer Look at LPMs

Apr 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

We applaud the decision last week by Nielsen Media Research to postpone implementation of the Local People Meter system in the New York market until at least June 3 after various concerns were raised, including charges by some minority groups that viewing by African Americans and Latinos might not be accurately measured.
Among other things, the delay will allow the present system to continue through the May sweeps, providing crucial additional data to compare against the new LPM sample. As we saw in Boston, the first city in which the LPMs were implemented, it takes a few months to shake out the bugs and adjust the sample so it is as accurate as possible.
We realize that a certain amount of the New York protest is political in nature and comes out of frustration over years of discrimination against minorities in areas other than TV measurement. We are aware that there are historical problems associated with measuring the viewership of some minority members, who are reluctant to participate in surveys where they have to provide extensive personal information. We are also aware that to avoid possible underrepresentation, Nielsen has intentionally overrepresented Latinos and African Americans in the New York LPM sample.
In light of all that, we hope Nielsen does indeed use the extra time to do additional testing and to come up with new strategies to ensure that it is getting boxes into homes representing the broadest possible cross-section of the public, so there can be no question that the scientific sample adequately reflects the diversity of the American population.
As we enter this era of high-tech audience measurement, we hope to see Nielsen gather reliable data in much greater depth, with a broader range of demographic and economic information. We believe many other groups besides those from 18 to 49 years of age could be attractive to advertisers if more specific data were available. That in turn would inspire more diverse programming, which is just as important as properly counting minorities.
While there have been efforts to compete with Nielsen, the fact is there aren’t any competitors with the same national reach or industry relationships. That position within television comes with a responsibility. Nielsen must not only communicate what it is doing, but also find ways to actually improve the measurements.
It is clear from Nielsen’s response that it is sensitive to the highly political nature of the New York protest. It should now speak and act in a way that solves problems without creating new ones, because the importance of accurately measuring TV audiences is only going to increase in the future.