Redefining Television and Other Staples

My favorite part about technology companies is the part where they evidence no understanding of technology.

The Nielsen Company isn’t a technology company, per se. It’s an information and measurement company that helps its customers understand consumers and consumer behavior. Its bread and butter are the Nielsen ratings, which measure a television audience’s size and composition. It’s almost impossible that you have not heard of Nielsen ratings; they are cited every time there’s a Super Bowl, a canceled sitcom, or a Kardashian pregnancy.

Until just recently, the ratings were based only on live, prime-time television viewing done via cable, satellite, and over-the-air broadcasts. Then one day, a Nielsen mailroom employee delivered a top executive’s Netflix order for Breaking Bad, and lightning struck. Or at least, that’s what my imagination tells me.

Realizing that people don’t just watch television on television when a television program formally airs, Nielsen has redefined what “television” means. Starting in September 2013, the definition will include streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon, and TV-enabled game systems like X-Box and PlayStation. These changes are expected to bode well for shows like Community, which does better in online viewing that it does in primetime.

Perhaps even more interestingly, Nielsen will also start accounting for social media activity related to TV viewing. The vehicle for this measurement will be the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, ” which will chart conversations about shows on the platform. Because you’re not really watching something unless you’re also providing snarky, simultaneous #commentary.

But kudos, Nielsen. Good for you for leap-frogging over all those decades you missed and joining the rest of us in the era of multi-tasking and attention def….hey! My sister just posted a picture of her manicure on Instagram!

I’m back.

It’s my belief that Nielsen’s initiative should serve as an inspiration for other companies and institutions whose business models don’t account for the fact of modern technology. Here’s my first stab at a list. Please feel free to add to it.

  • “Phone” companies. What they’re selling now aren’t phones in the traditional sense. A “phone” suggests a device that a customer would want to use to speak to another person using another “phone.” It’s 2013, though, and we know people don’t like speaking anymore. We like using electronic mobile devices to furiously tap things. We only want to communicate using the written word, or tiny little pictures of things like a lady doing a salsa dance or a yellow smiley face that is actively winking. “Phone” companies should get with it and re-brand themselves as “facilitators of passive-aggressiveness,” “inflators of confidence,” or “early-onset arthritis companies.” Or, perhaps more illustratively, modern-day highway robbers.
  • Libraries. The jig is up. Not only are people uninterested in sharing, they are uninterested in books. At least, books that have to be touched and are vulnerable to dog-earing. The books should go, to be replaced with large restrooms for people who find themselves surrounded by restaurants with obnoxious “Restrooms for Paying Customers Only” signs. Libraries should heretofore be known as Lifesavers for Those with Small Bladders.
  • Music Stores. These establishments either know something the rest of us don’t, or they are all fronts for some type of mob/mafia activity. That one can still enter a store, thumb through a plastic squares containing plastic circles of music, and enter into an over-the-counter transaction is fascinating. But it’s fascinating in the way knowing courses in Pig Latin are available is fascinating: amusing to know, but not an inspiration to pursue the opportunity. Commerce in music seems to be evermore relegated to the digital domain. I’m no Donald Trump, but I’d advise all music stores to consider transitioning their business to karaoke or Zumba.
  • The U.S. Postal Service. Oh my goodness, I don’t even know where to begin. But the question is: why should I have to?
  • Movies. I love ’em, I really do. What I don’t love, however, is paying $12,000 to see one, when I can just wait a few months to watch a new release for the cost of a monthly Netflix subscription, all from the comfort of my messy living room. It seems the movie industry suspects there’s some kind of Hunger Games quality to the average person’s motivation to see a film; as if we all think if we don’t see it first/quickly, we’ll die a nasty social death or something. Should we tell Harvey Weinstein that he’s made the first mistake of his life? We probably should, but I am not volunteering. I’m no Katniss.

What’d I miss?

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