A Foot(Notes) Fetish

Mar 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

ABC News knuckles got rapped by Nielsen Media Research last week after the division took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times under the banner claim: “Nobody connects more Americans in more ways to the news. Nobody.”

There were five claims in the ad, but only one got Nielsen’s attention. It said, “208 million Americans get their news from ABC News monthly-Online. Mobile. Broadband. Radio. Television.”

“You can say more people get their news from ABC than anybody else, but if you use the word ‘television’ then you have to source the Nielsen data you’re referring to,” Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus told The Insider.*

“They did not do that in this instance, and we have brought that to their attention,” Mr. Loftus said.

The ABC News ad also set tongues wagging at other TV news organizations, where the language in the ad was regarded as being parsed to the limit to support the claims.

For instance, the claim that 208 million Americans per month get their news from ABC would seem to include some duplicate counting of subscribers, users and viewers, as opposed to counting unique users, since the population of the United States is 298,262,149 people.**

ABC News spokeswoman Cathie Levine called the 208 million figure “an aggregate number.”

ABC News also claimed it has the “#1 broadcast news website.” The hair being split there is that ABC News, which is part of a broadcast network, doesn’t consider MSNBC.com to be the website of NBC News because it also is the companion site to cable-news channel MSNBC. That means ABC News, which has long lamented its lack of a cable news site, also doesn’t compare ABCNews.com to FoxNews.com or CNN.com.

That means ABC News considers only CBSNews.com as competition for the ABC News Website.

The Insider suspects that the average civilian reading the ad in the Times is unlikely to intuit that ABCNews.com is compared only to one of four other well-known news Web sites.

The facts did back up ABC News’ unspecific claim that “World News Now,” the webcast of ABC’s “World News Tonight,” is “the #1 downloaded video news podcasts on iTunes.” Indeed, last Thursday there were no other video news podcasts ranked higher than “ABC World News Now,” which was at 16th place. (The New York Times’ front page ranked as the eighth-most popular download.)

The ABC News ad appeared in a New York Times advertorial section in which the only other ad was placed by CNN. The headline on CNN’s ad was “One news brand knows the NOW consumer.” The ad supplied numbers-all attributed to their respective sources at the bottom of the page-for monthly tune-in for CNN and/or CNN Headline News, unique visitors to CNN.com, page views for wireless devices and downloads per month.

Ms. Levine disputed reports that ABC had paid as much as $57,000 for the ad but declined to say how much it actually cost.

P.S: The Times’ advertorial section had been scheduled as an eight-page, broadsheet, stand-alone section. Instead, it consisted of four pages at the back of the Times’ Business Day section.***


*In reply to The Insider’s query.

**According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census projections to March 23, 2006, at 21:29 GMT.

***According to an e-mail, obtained by The Insider, from advertorial reporter-writer Andrea Kahn seeking interviews with executives. Ms. Kahn said that as an advertorial, “the section is sponsored by advertisers, but the editorial that I’m writing is more or less independent of them.”