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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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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