Mass Media Research: An Introduction - 9th Edition
Roger D. Wimmer & Joseph R. Dominick

Reading a Nielsen Ratings Book Page

Nielsen Media Research ratings data are now available only online; the company no longer publishes hard copy books.  However, from an historical perspective, we think it is important for students to see what the information looked like in the original books.  This information is taken from the 8th edition of Mass Media Research: An Introduction.

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Copy, paste, and print the following information so you
follow along on the enlarged ratings page.)


This sample page is from Nielsen’s May 2004 Denver NSI ratings book (Metered Market). The page is taken from the “Program Averages” section of the book. The page shows the 6:00 p.m. time period. On page 1 of the report, Nielsen states that the DMA audience estimates are based on an average in-tab meter sample of 379 DMA TV households, with 3,319 diaries used to gather demographic information.

We will use KMGH to describe how to read the data. First, notice that each column is numbered, beginning with columns 1 and 2 at the left under “Metro HH,” to column 43 for Children. During the 4-week rating period, KMGH aired 7 News Monday through Friday. The “AV5” line shows the average rating and share information for 7 News during the 4 weeks. Columns 1 and 2 show the average metro rating and share as 5 and 10, just slightly higher than what KMGH received for the multiweek DMA averages shown in columns 7 and 8 (4 rating; 8 share).

Columns 3–6 show the DMA ratings for each of the 4 weeks, columns 7 and 8 are the averages for the DMA for the survey, and column 14 shows the DMA HUT (46). The remaining columns (15–43) show the DMA ratings for specific age and gender cells. Recall that this is only one page from the May 2004 Denver NSI book, which includes 324 pages. Now compare the results for KUSA, one of KMGH’s competitors—a few more people watch KUSA for the 6:00 p.m. weekday news.

Although information on ratings and shares is computed the same way for radio and television audience measurements, the information is presented very differently. Radio books usually contain more than 10 individual sections (such as Target Audience Estimates, Audience Composition, and various trend and rank data) and then concentrate on presenting audience estimates in terms of dayparts, not individual programs. Also, because there are so many radio stations in any given market, the emphasis in radio books is on shares, not ratings. Radio broadcasters rarely, if ever, use ratings to sell advertising; audience share is the key to radio advertising sales. In addition, metro shares, not DMA or TSA shares, are the most important numbers in radio.

Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 9th Edition, Home Page