Here’s How to Get Better TV Ratings Without the Hassle of Getting More Viewers

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If you want better ratings for your nightly news program, the logical approach is to attract more viewers with a better product. But that’s hard. An alternative is to figure out a way to have Nielsen ignore your broadcasts on days when viewership is low. But how? The Wall Street Journal explains:

In a game largely sanctioned by TV-ratings firm Nielsen, television networks try to hide their shows’ poor performances on any given night by forgetting how to spell. That explains the appearance of “NBC Nitely News,” which apparently aired on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend this year, when a lot of people were away from their TVs….Hiding the May 26 program from Nielsen dramatically improved the show’s average viewership that week.

….The network needn’t feel defensive. ABC took its own ratings mulligan seven times during the 2016-17 season with “Wrld New Tonite.” CBS misspelled “The CBS Evening News” as the “CBS Evening Nws” 12 times this season.

Nielsen may wink at this, but do advertisers? TV execs say the inflated numbers are used only for “publicity purposes,” but apparently that’s not quite true:

“Networks never used to do this,” said Billie Gold, director of programming at ad giant Dentsu Inc. Now, she said, it has become the norm….Ms. Gold and other ad executives say they are frustrated with the detective work required to kick the tires on network viewer ratings. She said her clients are surprised by the difference between the number of eyeballs the networks claim and Ms. Gold’s tally, which accounts for the altered titles.

I wonder if there’s something similar that bloggers can do to game their numbers? Hmmm.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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