Want to get paid just for watching TV?
That’s the dream, right?
The good news is that dream can become a reality if you sign up as a Nielsen Family and contribute to the company’s TV Ratings Survey.
Nielsen is a global measurement and data analytics company, based in New York, that has been measuring what people watch, buy and listen to for decades (since the 1920s).
Nielsen has operations in more than 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population.
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And TV is big business – the company estimates that there are 119.6 million TV homes in the U.S. – whether they’re hooked up to cable, satellite, digital antennae or the internet.
What’s a Nielsen Family?
Nielsen Families watch TV, track what they’re watching, and give the company feedback about their shopping and media use.
These opinions and experiences help the company more accurately understand consumers’ shopping and media habits.
Each “family,” which sometimes can even be a single person in a household, represents a percentage of the country’s population.
Through applied statistics, they can figure out the kind of viewership shows and commercials are getting.
The company uses the information to determine the cost of programming and whether a show has an actual audience.
Don’t worry. Your info, as a participant, is kept confidential.
The company promises not to license, publish or sell any of the personal information collected from its Families.
How to participate in Nielsen TV Ratings
Unfortunately, this is the tricky part – you can’t choose to become a panelist, you’re chosen to become one (but there are other ways to get paid by Nielsen. More on that later!).
The company says every home in the U.S. has an equal opportunity to be selected.
Homes are chosen using a combination of phone numbers, addresses and census information that is publicly available on the web.
It’s not clear exactly what the criteria are, except that you are chosen to represent a much larger swath of the TV viewing demographic.
Every year, the company mails one million paper diaries to randomly selected households of families who fit an open demographic.
If you’re one of them, the initial opportunity might come to you in the form of a piece of junk mail, or it might come to you through a phone call. It might even come in the form of a door hanger. So keep your eyes peeled.
One user mentioned that he almost threw away an envelope from the company inviting him to participate. It’s lucky he didn’t because it contained several dollar bills, along with the initial ask. (Lesson learned – always sort through your junk mail.)
Occasionally, field representatives will go door knocking to tell people about the opportunity.
How does Nielsen Ratings work
If you’ve received an email or correspondence asking if you would like to participate as a Nielsen Family, you’ll receive a large envelope with a short TV rating survey, a postage paid envelope or a letter inviting you to participate.
Some users have noted that their initial contact from the company contained several $1 bills just to prove the program’s legitimacy and persuade them to participate.
Once you agree, you may receive a digital set box that transmits your viewing data to the company, or you may receive a paper diary to fill out instead, especially if you live in a smaller market.
Some users have reported that the paper diary isn’t the easiest to use. It asks you to record the channel, channel number, date, and the name of the program in a small space.
It’s fairly common, also, that users wait until later in the week and try to fill out the diary by memory. Of course, that’s not preferred.
Users that have a set-top device bypass this step because their information is sent digitally.
Still a little behind the times, at the moment, Nielsen remains the standard in TV ratings.
As you turn in your viewing information, be prepared to answer more questions about your demographic and consumer behavior.
The company wants to monitor changes that may be affected by your viewing habits.
Keep in mind, none of the information you provide is available to fellow panelists.
Nielsen Family compensation
So how much can you make as a user?
Not a lot, but if you’re like me, almost anything paid for watching TV is a bonus.
User reviews regarding pay range from “not worth it” to “not bad at all.”
One estimated receiving about $10 per month, plus bonuses for sticking with the program at one month ($100) and three-month (another $100) milestones.
Someone else mentioned that it pays about $15 per month per member of your household participating.
Others mentioned additional chances to win more money throughout their experience.
Although the company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, its negative reviews outnumber the positive ones.
But then again, most people only leave a review when they have had a bad experience, so take online reviews and the numbers of good vs bad with a grain of salt.
Some reviewers complain that after an initial correspondence, they became inundated with spammy phone calls.
Customer service was also listed as a downside to the program.
However, there are a number of blogs across the web that share a sunnier side of the experience, so perhaps it’s better to see for yourself, should you get the opportunity.
Is Nielsen safe?
I’m sure you have some privacy concerns which is logical.
However, you should know that with all Nielsen panels, the information is gathered anonymously. Meaning they don’t use any of your identifiable information (name, address etc). They just use the general demographics of the users that go with the gathered data.
So instead of saying, Jane Doe visit Facebook.com 2 times day, it’ll be something like “a female between 20 and bought X and Y on Monday.”
So your name and address will never be attached to any of the data.
Nielsen Scam & Fake Money
As with any opportunity like this, be it mystery shopping, paid online surveys, paid focus groups and others, there are scammers out there who are waiting to take advantage of people who are ignorant about the facts.
For your own safety, if someone who claims to be with Nielsen knocks on your door, please ask for an ID and photo badge before engaging with that person.
If you’re not sure, you can contact the company at 1-800-237-8611 to verify that the person is legit.
By the way, you cannot participate in a Nielsen TV Ratings Survey if you work at a TV station, network, cable company, satellite provider, radio network, etc.
Other ways to make money with Nielsen
Can’t wait for an invitation from the company to join?
No worries, the company has other money making opportunities that you can join right away.
Here are a few:
1. Nielsen Computer & Mobile Panel
- Where to sign up: Nielsen Computer & Mobile Panel
Nielsen Computer & Mobile Panel is a research panel that focuses on how we use the internet by studying the sites we visit.
It’s basically just like the TV Rating panel but instead of studying people’s TV viewing habits, the focus is on internet usage.
As far as how much you can earn, it depends on how many devices you register. The more devices you register the more you earn
2. Nielsen HomeScan Consumer Panel
- Where to sign up: Nielsen HomeScan
HomeScan, also known as National Consumer Panel, is the exact same thing, except the focus here is on your grocery purchasing habits.
They’ll send you a free handheld scanner or you can install the free NCPMobile App.
You then use the scanner of the app to scan the barcodes on all the products you buy during a shopping trip.
For each scanning session, you earn points which you can then redeem for prizes.
Is Nielsen TV Ratings Legit?
You may be asking yourself whether it’s legit and worth a try.
I say if you’re lucky enough to get the chance – why not?
It seems like a low-risk, high-reward reward proposition.
Not only do you get the power to have some influence over what’s on TV, you also get paid for giving your opinion.
It may mean you have to be a little more engaged when you watch instead of being a passive viewer posting on Facebook with Netflix or a similar to Netflix streaming service on in the background. But with great power comes great responsibility, as they say.
By the way, if you like Netflix and binge watching, Netflix will pay you to binge watch shows.
To end this Nielsen Rating review, I’d say if you do get lucky and get an invitation to the program, give it a try for a while and see how you like it. If you don’t like it, you’re free to back out anytime.
Are you, or have you ever been a Nielsen Family?
Tell us about your experience in the comments.