Earlier this afternoon, I was listening to Mad Dog Unleashed on Mad Dog Sports Radio and Chris Russo was going to town on the NBA about its ratings. One of the listeners called in and suggested that the dip in ratings could be the result of more people streaming NBA games or possibly listening on SiriusXM NBA Radio. Chris wasn’t having if of course but it did bring into my mind the importance of ratings and how they are usually gathered. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Nielsen ratings diary.
How I first came across this moment? Back during my time with the Army Corps of Engineers, I resided in Opelika, Alabama. I spent more time on the road than in my apartment but it was still home. In December 2014, I received a letter from Nielsen in the mail. It wasn’t addressed to me specifically but rather my residence. Typically, I trash such pieces of mail but I decided to audible on this one. I opened the letter and it turned out to be a survey. Even then, I still considered trashing it but there were 2 $1 bills enclosed. As the old saying goes, “money talks”. I filled out the survey and Nielsen started sending me more mail related to ratings. In April 2015, they sent me a ratings diary and $30. The purpose was for me to log all of my television viewing habits over a 2-week period.
What it meant to me then? At the time, I thought it was a cool concept. I was very diligent in filling out the diary and I gave my honest assessment of what I watched and why I watched. I also added some context of why I didn’t watch certain shows and why my viewing during certain time slots was virtually nonexistent. The fact that Nielsen paid me for this was a plus. Honestly, once I understood why they sent out these surveys, I was open to participating no matter what. They didn’t actually have to pay me.
What it means to me now? I moved out of that apartment in April 2016. I didn’t get a chance to inform Nielsen of my address change so I’m pretty sure the new resident probably took advantage and swooped in on my ratings hustle. To get selected for Nielsen surveys is incredibly random. With life abroad imminent for me, it’s unlikely I’ll be in a position to be selected again for many, many years but it was a privilege to have been part of the Nielsen ratings team. I ended up doing 5 surveys for them and I got paid $47. More than the money, which usually covered a fast-food order, was the opportunity to give an honest assessment of television of the day. That mattered to me.