I was a Nielsen family recently, even though it’s just me and two cats, and I don’t let them watch just anything.
There are no cost-of-living increases in Nielsen Land. Twenty years ago they paid me a whole dollar to keep a diary of my television viewing habits. They sent me the same amount this time, but for a lot more work. Today they ask you to enter not just the shows you watched, but also the shows you recorded. And because we have such complicated channel grids these days, Nielsen requests that you attach a copy of your cable provider’s channel lineup. I did the latter, but not the former. Mainly because I had just had a DVR installed at the time and didn’t really know what I was doing.
I still haven’t gotten one of those Nielsen boxes that actually records the channels you’re watching. Just a diary. One for the office, one for the living room.
The Nielsen diary is not an invasive procedure at all. Not like the Trendex system used to be. Trendex was a method of TV ratings where you filled out a form saying what you watched, then they called you on the phone to see if you were really watching it. You were pretty much busted when you said you’re enjoying Masterpiece Theater and the laugh track from Laverne & Shirley is blaring in the background.
But even the Nielsen method is an obligation, like doing homework. When they send me another diary in 20 years, I’m holding out for two dollars.