1. The Walking Dead
3. American Horror Story: Coven
4. Catfish: The TV Show
5. The X Factor
7. The Voice
8. Jimmy Kimmel Live
9. The X Factor
10. Dancing With The Stars
1. Sunday Night Football
2. Big Bang Theory
3. The OT
4. The Voice
5. Football Night In America
6. Modern Family
7. The Blacklist
9. The Millers
10. The Voice
And boom, as they like to say, goes the dynamite.
As the wonderful Angela Watercutter, of Wired, wrote this morning, despite those Twitter ratings finally being unleashed for the very first time in the history of forever (yeah, remember this post in 75 years from now, all you people not reading this), we have absolutely no idea what in the name of Tumblr they mean. Like, none. No clue. Zilch. Nada. From No. 1 to 1,000, nobody can conclude a dang thing in the wake of all this.
Why is that? Well, you saw the list, didn’t you? Between the dueling stats, only two share spots on both lists, “Scandal” and “The Voice” (R.I.P., “The Voice” previews and recaps). The most tweeted-about show? That didn’t even crack the top 10 when it comes to actual eyeballs. The most-watched program? Nobody in Social Media Land gave a Pinterest about what it offered. The result, as Watercutter noted, is one big … What?
“It turns out the shows most seen on Twitter aren’t always the shows most seen on TV,” she wrote, “and the discrepancy illustrates just how much more there is to learn about what a tweet about a TV show means. It also offers networks and advertisers a way to gauge the relationship between viewership and Twitter traffic, but knowing the volume of tweets is just the beginning, and there’s a lot of data in those tweets that’s still silent.”
Silent indeed. How noise rises from the ashes of nothingness, though, might be a much more complex question than advertisers and network executives probably want to believe.
If there’s only one thing that the current instant-world-of-gratification has established, TV-wise, it’s that the difference between what people talk about and what people watch is quite remarkable. Now, a lot of things factor into that, sure — age and class are the two elements that leap to mind immediately, considering how younger people are typically attached to technological advances and hello: You need to have enough money to own a computer or a smartphone in order to even be a part of this conversation — but even with all that considered, it’s hard to think that this result would be completely flipped if everyone, regardless of outside influence, was born with an iPhone and a Twitter account to their name. Why is that?
Oh, here’s where it gets good.
Because Twitter (along with social media in general) is where we go to look good. It’s where we go to suggest that we love things like “Mad Men,” even if we’re watching “Two and a Half Men” as we type our proclamations (full disclosure: I’ve never done that, and if I do, please set my body on fire). It’s much easier to look hip and connected when all you have is a keyboard and an Internet bill. Attach a camera to your body 24 hours a day and have a look at the footage. Yeah, it’s not going to be nearly as appealing, no matter who you are.
While useful and admittedly somewhat interesting, the current state of technology has no way of completely replicating real-time occurrences. That’s not to say there wasn’t a big chunk of people watching “The Walking Dead” or “Glee” last week, of course. That’s just to say that the difference between what we say and what we do is far more substantial than these types of measurements suggest. Does that mean the practice can’t be monetized in some absurdly lucrative way that will ultimately help dictate the way we consume television in the future? No way. But does that mean that there’s still a large distance between the relevance of Twitter TV ratings and actual TV ratings? Well, is “The Good Wife” the best show on television today?
(The answer is yes).
The numbers are valuable and the calculation is intriguing. The true fascinating tale, however, will come as the digits continue to change one way or the other over the years. Because, if we get to 2025 and the list of top 10-rated programs in the Nielsen results share names with at least eight of the top 10 Twitter TV ratings compiled by the same company … boy, something will be going right throughout all of TV Without A TV land.
And it won’t just be season 13 of “House of Cards.”