Newspaper fraud, tv ratings

Two interesting ideas at the same time this week.

First, after a bazillion years, Nielsen announces that they will start to rate the viewership of commercials. The obvious question, "why wait so long?" The answer is that the networks are a critical client of Nielsen, and the last thing in the universe they want is to rate commercials. The surprising thing is that many advertisers don’t want the ratings either. Why? Because as soon as you measure, you need to admit you failed. So you need to tell your boss you wasted a few million dollars…

Second, Doug Karr writes in to take newspapers and the Audit Bureau of Circulation to task for the changing standards in newspaper ratings. The numbers are a lot less strict… and a lot softer… than they were a decade or two ago, he reports.

Measurement is always tricky, because people believe what they want to believe and find the numbers to back it up. In both cases, we’re seeing how advertisers and media companies are complicit at weaving a story that doesn’t really hold up. How many "hits" did your web page get last week? And what, exactly, does that mean?