Nielsen Rating System Expanding To Include Digital Content

Ratings are one of the most important metrics to gauge how audiences take in content, and Nielsen is now set to expand its system to allow publishers to get credit for digital content aired through YouTube, Hulu and Facebook.

Just under a year ago, Nielsen launched its digital content ratings metric. The system was designed to measure audiences that use mobile and desktop devices to watch and consume a variety of digital content, from Facebook’s Instant Articles to YouTube videos. Video and text have been measured and the metrics are fully comparable to television.

Nielsen’s announcement today means that publishers and content creators will now receive credit for the metrics Nielsen has been tracking since September 2016. This includes TV clips posted online by official accounts of the shows themselves. Immediate examples that pop to mind are late night talk shows hosted by the likes of Jimmy Fallon and John Oliver. These shows often post skits the day of airing, knowing that a large part of their audiences exist online. If a viewer watches one of those clips through YouTube or Facebook, they will receive Nielsen credit. Check out an example below from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Hulu is a bit different in terms of how the new digital metrics system will work. Hulu will provide “select media partners” with credit for series that are currently running that also air on the streaming network. Those media partners have yet to be announced.

“Now, both TV and digital clients enabled for Digital Content Ratings will be able to display viewership of their content across all platforms, including these key digital distributors,” Nielsen wrote in a release. “This will allow publishers to better showcase the various ways people watch their digital content, as well as provide agencies and advertisers with valuable data for more informed decision making.”

These ratings will not be folded into the company’s TV rating system, but act as a standalone measuring metric. Now any kind of content viewership measuring can be independently verified and not just come as a “trust me, the numbers are legit” statement from whichever company produced the content itself.

Major digital content creation companies have applauded the move.

“Much of our content is being missed by traditional measurement tools and Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings allow us to count content views and viewers across our owned and operated properties as well as Facebook and YouTube,” said Edwin Wong, vice president of research and insights at BuzzFeed in a statement. “With this new tool at our disposal, we are able to have a clearer view of BuzzFeed’s true reach.”

These moves are indicative of a shifting market and go to show that traditional ways of measuring metrics just won’t cut it anymore. Last year in a fairly similar fashion, Billboard started counting album streams as sales.