The Ratings Game
For the past week or so, the two top television networks in my country have been on a word war about their ratings. Network A (let’s call them Networks A and B) has been claiming that Network B is bribing households in a certain town to switch to their channels during noon time (considered prime time here) so that the survey/audit company’s data-gathering will be in Network B’s favor.
Network B has filed defamation suits in the courts of law, and lately both Network A and B have been having hourly commercial spots airing out their respective positions, in their own defense.
Seems to me like it’s going to be a trial by publicity. At the back of my mind, I laugh about the silliness of it all. For one, the town concerned is miles away from where I live–the country’s capital–and I couldn’t care less about the ratings in that town. Secondly, as a consumer of multimedia, I don’t really give a hoot about ratings or such, as long as I get good quality programs.
However, it dawned upon me that the reason behind all this fuss is money. For us consumers ratings could simply be indicators of how popular a television (or radio) channel or network is, for a given time of the day. However, for the network and for the media industry, ratings represent pricing power. For media that are not able to count exact “hits” or “page views” ratings are used as an indication of popularity and reach. This translates to how much the television network or station can charge advertisers, particularly as they price ad spots on cost per thousand pairs of eyeballs (or impressions, if that’s a better term).
So the ratings game is not silly at all, because we bloggers are also part of that game. In our case, though, “ratings” are easier to come by, with the various metrics software that help us measure and analyze traffic, such as our very own pMetrics. We also have other (more-or-less external) means of rating our sites, such as PageRank, Alexa ranking, Technorati rank, and the like. These, then, affect our pricing power implicitly or explicitly, whether for pricing ad spots, text links or sponsored reviews (some of which are frowned upon by some in the community, I know).
Sometimes it’s implicit because in some cases, it’s purely the traffic and the niche covered by our blogs that affect how well we earn, and we cannot really influence too much the outcome, such as with clickthrough rates and payments per click. In some cases, it’s explicit, like when a higher-PageRank site can fetch higher ad rates than others. In any case, these are analogous to what television and radio networks have with their “ratings.”
Perhaps in the same way that the above-cited Networks A and B are battling it on air, we bloggers have also used our own mediums to discuss the various “ratings” related issues that have affected us, like PageRank drops, and even the ethics of selling links or sponsored reviews. So again, is it silly? Maybe not–if what we are talking about puts food on our plates, pays the bills, and sends our kids to school.
Of course, this is from the perspective of the producer of the media. So for us bloggers–particularly those involved in blogging as a business or profession–traffic matters. PageRank matters. Other ranking methods matter. But for a reader, what does really matter? For some, metrics may influence how we initially view a site. A blog that has a higher PR or Technorati rating could be a more ideal destination than one that is less popular.
However, being an avid blog reader myself, I can say that metrics and such “ratings” go only as far as being helpful as “first impressions” of a blog. What matters more to me is the quality of the content, and relevancy to my interests, and of course, if the writer is able to reach out to me in a way I like. It’s similar to how I would rather watch intelligently-written and presented TV series from a channel with low ratings, than watch crappy programming just because it’s popular among viewers.
So how about those networks with their rating wars? I’d say just focus on fixing the quality of your content, and perhaps the good ratings will follow!
J. Angelo Racoma is a technology journalist for CMSWire and TFTS. A former editor at Splashpress Media, The Blog Herald and Performancing, he now does consultancy work through WorkSmartr.com. Follow him at racoma.net and on Twitter.
I find it rather curious and to an extent ‘silly’ that you found it silly at the beginning and had to think deeply in order to understand why the TV stations care about it and that hits and rating translate directly into the amount of money they charge advertisers.
I do agree with you about the last part. Hits and rating are merely an indicatotor of the popularity of a TV show or blog, and does not equaly quality.
*Plays disruptor ala Mel-Gibson-conspiracy-theory hat* What if this is just another ploy by the networks (and maybe even bloggers who “fight”) to increase rating?
And yes, content quality for networks and many blogs (including mine) need to step up.
I think the reason why Network A isn’t backing down from the ratings war is because they think that there are other places that are being manipulated by network B.
Of couse, Network A’s line of thinking would be, “How could I concentrate on making quality content if the ratings are rigged? Even if they do make quality content, Network B would just rig the ratings and would stand out more”
Then again, as you have summed at the end of you r post: These are just for first impressions. it is the viewers that will decided in the end.