Mike Isaac

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Attention, Ad Dudes: Nielsen Becomes the Official Twitter TV Ratings Guide

Twitter announced on Monday that Nielsen, the media and television analytics service, is now the official arbiter and measurer of television ratings based on Twitter activity.

It’s an exclusive multiyear agreement, dubbed with the fancy “Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings” title, coming in a partnership between the two companies. So official, in fact, that the two call it the “industry standard metric” which measures all the Twitter activity and conversation focused on television shows.

Obvious move here. Twitter remains much lauded for its “second-screen” experience; while a television event of high interest — like the presidential debates or a big sporting match — is on the tube, Twitter sees large spikes in activity between users talking about the show. So to have an “industry standard” makes sense if Twitter wants to make its pitch to advertisers that Twitter engagement data really does matter.

That pitch, which Twitter has long trumpeted, is that, yes, traditional TV ratings systems of measuring viewers who tune in still matter. But engagement on Twitter focused on the show also matters, and translates to something that ad buyers should care about.

Not everyone is sold on that idea quite yet. Still a question for the ad dudes to mull.

The new partnership isn’t completely unexpected, either. Twitter and Nielsen already have history with each other, having paired up to work on Twitter advertising surveys earlier in the year. And Nielsen bought social tracker SocialGuide last month, so it’s no surprise that Nielsen cares about social analytics.

I doubt that everyone in the Twitter ecosystem is stoked on this, though. Especially companies like Bluefin, Trendrr and Viggle, which earn their meat and potatoes measuring social television analytics and selling that data to advertisers. My guess is that Twitter is offering direct access to its fire hose — the ever-flowing stream of tweets that pass through the company’s pipes every day — straight to Nielsen, what with this exclusivity agreement and all.

If Twitter is setting the API access system up like it has with partners Datasift and Gnip, the new deal is a bummer for the Bluefins of the world, who may have to go through extra hurdles to get that data from now on. I’d imagine that everyone else in the ecosystem would have liked to have the deal that Nielsen got.

Update, 10:51 am PT: That was fast! Bluefin CEO JP Maheu provided the following punchy comment: “Bluefin Labs remains focused on driving new innovations in social TV analytics, not just by focusing on one dimensional ratings and rankings, but by providing rich and actionable multi-dimensional analytics [affinity data] to brands and TV networks.”

This whole thing has to smart a bit for Facebook, too. Nielsen calls it the Twitter TV ratings system, not the social TV ratings system. Ouchy.

Expect the new ratings system to roll out at the start of the 2013 television season.

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