Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and TV Ratings

With apologies to either Benjamin Disraeli or Mark Twain, it’s almost time for the release of more “Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and TV Ratings.” Yes, the February book is behind us and it’s time for the television stations to put their spin on the ratings. It’s always interesting to see how the stations that run neck and neck put the ratings into perspective but you can’t overlook those farther back in the pack either. The front-runners will show you how THEY have the key demographics that advertisers want. Those back in the pack will show you how they have DOUBLED or even TRIPLED their ratings. Depending on how they spin it, EVERYBODY can show how a particular book showed them doing well. But hey, if you don’t brag on yourself, nobody else will.
Still, despite the fact that so many people in a newsroom live and die by the ratings, I would bet that most people in a newsroom DON’T know how to read a ratings diary. Oh, they may know if they’re doing well and if they are beating the competition, but I think it’s safe to say many can’t tell you what a ratings diary spells out with all of the numbers. I know I used to struggle through reading them.
One other note about the ratings. I’m reminded of the old Cold War joke about an automobile race between the Russians and the Americans. The Russians lost to the Americans. The next day, the headline in the Russian newspaper announced the results of the race. It announced the Russians came in second while the Americans finished next to last. It’s all about the spin.

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