This Is What Happens When You Tweet While Watching TV

...and how all that data is being used to measure ratings.

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EmTech MIT

The EmTech MIT conference is going on in the Boston area right now. EmTech is a mashup of the words “emerging” and “technology.” I’m a technology guy. I live in Boston. Add all these things up, and I’m at this conference this week.

One of the first speakers from this morning’s session was Deb Roy, who is the “Chief Media Scientist” at Twitter. Roy talked about the creation of a “video analytics engine” to connect what’s being shown on TV to what’s being said on Twitter about what’s being shown on TV.

Roy uses the example in the below video of people watching the Walking Dead. Skip ahead to the 2:50 mark to get right to it, or watch the video from the beginning for a bit of backstory:

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The above example traces the tweet of a single user and how that tweet gets seen for the first time by one of that user’s followers. It then shows the tweet spreading a handful more times over the next couple hours before finally petering out at around 11:30.


MIT EmTech

“Within Twitter now, it’s possible in real time across roughly half a billion tweets a day to trace every single impression as it’s made,” says Roy. He then displays every tweet from every user who was watching that same Walking Dead episode, saying, “So what we get is a virtual tidal wave of impressions being driven by the audience of the show.”


MIT EmTech

Roy finishes by saying, “This week, Nielsen rolled out a new way to rate television in the U.S. based on exactly this sort of data. So it’s a sort of tipping point for the industry in paying attention to this new conversation around television.”