Nielsen Panels & Surveys

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Review of Nielsen Panels & Surveys

By joining Nielsen panels and surveys, consumers can earn rewards by installing special apps linked to their mobile, computer and TV. At the same time, The Nielsen Company get to measure and analyse media consumption across a wide array of devices. However, some drawbacks are associated with installing these metering apps. As an example, some of the apps have a tendency to slow down your device. More on this is in the review below.

Note that this review is about panels and surveys operated by The Nielsen Company. This is a different company than NielsenIQ, which is also operating similar consumer panels such as NielsenIQ Homescan.   

Daniel Williams Reviewer

Andrew: Andrew is one of our reviewers who’s been with HuginX the longest. With a background in membership support at one of the largest survey companies, Andrew has a lot of inside knowledge of the Market Research industry and has helped us refine our reviewing criteria. When Andrew is not working with reviews, he likes to go hiking with his dog Charlie. 

History of Nielsen’s metering panels:

The history of Nielsen TV ratings dates back to the 1920s, when the company was founded by Arthur C. Nielsen Sr. Nielsen started as a market research firm that focused on the radio industry, but it expanded into television as the medium became more popular in the 1950s.

Here are some key milestones:

  • 1930s: Nielsen begins measuring radio ratings using a “household diary” system, in which families record their radio listening habits and mail the diaries back to Nielsen for analysis.
  • 1950s: Paper diaries are used to measure TV viewing habits. Households would record the shows they watched by hand and mail the diaries back to Nielsen for analysis.
  • 1960s: Nielsen introduces the “Audimeter,” a device that attaches to the TV and records what channels are being watched. This technology replaces the paper diaries and provides more accurate data.
  • 1970s: The “People Meter” is introduced by Nielsen; a more advanced version of the Audimeter that can track viewing habits for individual household members. The People Meter becomes the standard for TV ratings measurement.
  • 1980s: Nielsen expands its ratings system to include cable TV channels and local markets. The company also introduces “sweeps” periods, during which it collects more detailed ratings data to help networks set ad rates.
  • 1990s: “Overnight ratings” are introduced, which provide preliminary data on the previous night’s TV viewing. This data helps networks make programming and advertising decisions more quickly.
  • 2000s: Nielsen introduces “time-shifted viewing” measurements, which track how many people watch TV shows after they air live. This technology becomes important as DVRs and on-demand streaming become more popular.
  • 2020s: In order to capture media consumed on different types of devices used for streaming, Nielsen is now using TV meters attached to your internet router in combination with computer meters, mobile app meters and audio detection measurement.

What is a metering panel?

A meter used for market research, such as the Nielsen meter, is a specialized electronic device or software that is used to measure various types of consumer behaviour. In the case of Nielsen, their meters are used to measure tv, video and radio viewing and streaming habits in a sample of households.

Nielsen’s National People Meter panel, which measures television viewing habits in the United States, consists of around 40,000 households, or approximately 100,000 individuals. These households have all installed metering devices which automatically transfer viewing data back to Nielsen.

Nielsen also operates panels for measuring radio listenership, digital media usage, and other media consumption habits, each with their own sample sizes and selection criteria. As an example, around 60 000 Americans are part of the the audio panel, using wearable meters.

How do Nielsen recruit to it’s metering panels?

Nielsen recruits participants for their metering panels through a variety of methods to obtain a national representative sample:

  1. Recruitment mailings: Nielsen sends recruitment mailings to households or individuals that they have identified as potential panelists. These mailings typically include information about the panel and the benefits of participating.
  2. Online applications: Nielsen allows individuals to apply to participate in some of their panels online. These applications may include questions about the individual’s demographic information, media usage habits, and other relevant factors.
  3. Referral programs: Nielsen sometimes offers referral programs to encourage existing panelists to refer others to join the panel. These programs may offer incentives to both the referrer and the referred individual.
  4. Telephone recruitment: In some cases, Nielsen may contact households or individuals by telephone to recruit them for their panels. These calls typically include information about the panel and an invitation to participate.

Types of Nielsen meters

Nielsen is using several types of digital meters to give their clients accurate measurements of media and advertising. Nielsen One, the company’s cross-media solution promises to deliver a single, deduplicated metric for total media consumption across TV, Digital and Audio.

Here are the 3 main types of meters used by Nielsen:

  1. TV meter: A meter linked to your TV set (linear and/or streaming)
  2. Computer & Mobile meter: App installed on your digital devices measuring online activities.
  3. PPM wearable meter: A wearable wristband measuring audio to detect radio and TV consumption.

1. Nielsen TV Meter

The Nielsen TV streaming meter detects any streaming of online media and which device is being used, for example, a Smart TV or tablet. The information is encrypted and securely sent back to Nielsen via the internet and is not stored on the meter.

nielsen streaming meter

Data tracked:

  • Streaming service (e.g. Netflix)
  • Streaming device (e.g. iPad)
  • Start-time
  • End-time

How do I join?

You can’t join the Nielsen TV meter panel unless invited. Nielsen selects a sample of homes from communities all over the country to represent the entire TV audience. Households are randomly selected, and every household has a chance of being selected, no matter where it is located.

2. Nielsen Computer & Mobile meter

Nielsen’s Computer & Mobile meter is an app which you download and install on your devices. By collecting data from thousands of participants, Nielsen can get a good overview of how consumers use their application, which websites they visit and how long they stay on each site. By actively participating in the panel with at least one mobile device (or tablet) and one PC (or Mac) you can receive over £60 per year. The app informs Nielsen what websites you go to and how long you stay there without collecting any user IDs or passwords.

nielsen mobile panel

Data tracked:

  • The URLs/Apps you’re using
  • How long time you spend on each site/app
  • General computer/or mobile device activity
  • Device ID/IP address 

How do I join?

You can join the Nielsen panel by simply registering at the Nielsen website. You’ll need to submit your basic information such as name, county of residence and birth date. You must also verify your phone number in order to get registered.

3. Nielsen PPM wearable audio meter

PPM stands for Portable People Meters and was first launched in the 1980s featuring a device worn like a pager, detecting and recognizing audio from radio and television. These days, Nielsen is offering their panellists a much more sleek wearable device similar to an activity tracker such as Fitbit. The device detects radio shows, podcasts, audiobooks, TV shows and movies you watch. In this way, Nielsen can analyse media consumption as part of the analytical services they offer to its clients.

nielsen wearable

Data tracked:

  1. Station tuning: Nielsen Audio meters can track the station that the participant is listening to. This includes both the AM/FM radio and internet radio stations.
  2. Duration of listening: The meter records how long a participant listens to each station.
  3. Time of day: The meter records the time of day that the participant is listening to each station.
  4. Demographics: The meter is associated with a participant’s demographic information, such as age, gender, and race/ethnicity, which can be used to analyze audience demographics for specific stations.
  5. Location: The meter records the location of the participant when they are listening to a particular station.
  6. Other audio exposure: The PPM can also record exposure to other audio sources such as TV and music streaming services.

How do I join?

Just like Nielsen’s TV meter, you can’t volunteer. Instead, Nielsen will pick a random sample of households across the country and invite you by contacting you through your mail.

What about my data – are they safe?

Providing a company with access to all your browsing activity across different devices can seem daunting. How can you be sure your data is really safe with Nielsen?

The Nielsen Company is the world’s biggest market research company, and it’s essential for its reputation and business model to store its users’ data as securely as possible. The key thing to remember is that the data Nielsen collects through their devices will be used for market research purposes in aggregate form.

Even if Nielsen collects personally identifiable information (PII) like name, email address and phone number, this is not something they reveal to their clients individually.

In line with GDPR, Nielsen needs to restrict the usage of PII data in line with the consent you gave when ticking the privacy policy checkbox when signing up. That’s why you should always check the privacy policy of every panel you join to get a full overview of what type of data you’ll need to share and how it will be used.

Potential drawbacks of joining Nielsen’s metering panel

While there are benefits to joining Nielsen’s metering panel, there are also some drawbacks:
  1. Intrusive monitoring: Participating in Nielsen’s metering panel, allows the company to monitor your television and media usage, which some people may find intrusive or uncomfortable.
  2. Limited incentives: The incentives for participating in Nielsen’s metering panel may not be sufficient for some people, as the compensation may be relatively low and not commensurate with the level of involvement needed.
  3. Potential for technical issues: The equipment used to monitor television and media usage may have technical issues or malfunction, which can lead to inaccurate data.
  4. Limited control: Participants in Nielsen’s metering panel have limited control over how their data is used or shared, which may be a concern for some individuals.
  5. Limited feedback: Participants may not receive regular or detailed feedback on their own viewing habits or how their data is being used, which may be frustrating for some.

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Specification: Nielsen Panels & Surveys

What can I earn?
Paid Gigs


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Nielsen Panels & Surveys
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