Nielsen has announced a new ratings system that takes into account tweets about a show as well as the audience exposed to those tweets. As Scandal fans already know, the second-screen experience has become an essential part of viewing some television shows, and Twitter is trying to make the platform appealing to media partners as a possible way of increasing revenue.
The way the system works is that a tweet that appears in a user's feed is known as an impression, so while a relatively small amount of the viewership is actively tweeting about a television show, a much larger audience is seeing the chatter. For example, via the Los Angeles Times, a show like The Voice has an online audience 50 times greater than the number of people actually tweeting. Nielsen "also has identified 35,000 Twitter accounts, created by networks, actors, athletes, professional sports teams and others associated with TV programming."
Online interaction with media is fast becoming a metric of success in various parts of the entertainment industry. At the beginning of the year, Billboard began counting YouTube views in its chart calculations, propelling one-hit wonder Baauer's "Harlem Shake" to the top position. Additionally, Nielsen itself also started counting online television views as well a few months ago.
Though Nielsen's new system is a separate metric from its main TV ratings system, it's still another way for networks and their advertisers to judge the reach of their message. It's possible that in the face of th DVR, social media is making TV appointment viewing again. It's unclear if that trend will carry over to a more asynchronous viewing event like filmgoing, but hopefully not.