Nielsen Ratings tell us what's the biggest, best, most important, "must see, must buy" -- in movies, soap operas, plays, books, videos, podcasts, video games, music, sports -- as it creates the ratings and rankings for its advertisers, and markets.
And ratings influence us -- they teach us that what is popular is liked or admired by many -- and popular means that it's intended for, or suited to the taste of the general public, so we feel that what's popular is important, because it's the attitude held by many, many people, the people as a whole.
Before Nielsen, in 1930, there was Dan Starch, a Harvard Professor, who headed the Association of Advertising Agencies ( started in 1924), to measure advertising readership and radio viewers. Starch's associate, C. E. Hooper, in 1934, advanced how the measuring was done. Rather than general surveys, Hooper ratings were based on selected viewers, who listened to the radio at a given time.
A year later, George H. Gallup was employed by Gardner Cowles (publisher of newspapers and Look Magazine), to begin the Institute of Public Opinion, that became the Gallup Polls.
How do I know? I researched and wrote about rankings and ratings and how they affected my character Cordelia in silent films, talkies, radio and the early days of television -- it's in my virtual library on my Website -- "Somebody Book I, The Ropes in Radio."
Anyhow -- Nielsen ratings tell us that Michael Jackson's funeral had 31.4 million viewers. The more we remember him -- even his sharing his bed with young boys, his trial, his outrageous shopping trips, and him on a hotel balcony dangling his baby -- the more the weirdness of Michael Jackson fades. The tribute Madonna gave him in London, captures an essence of the man that's precious to millions, precious to me, too.
Death at an early age leaves us with an image of Michael Jackson, the artist -- still beautiful, magical, enchanting.
Death for Diana, Princess of Wales, left us and the world with an image of a young woman in her prime, an articulate, poetic, loving mother, an injured wife who tried to survive her husband's involvement with another woman, but couldn't.
Though she died in 1997, today she is still a heroine, an ideal, and a "real" Princess.
(For those who remember the fairy tale --"The Princess and the Pea" -- "real princess is different from an ordinary girl. When the half-dozen mattresses were piled high on top of one green pea, in the center of the bottom mattress, the ordinary girl slept like a lamb, but the real princess felt it, tossed and turned couldn't sleep a wink.)
The image of Princess Diana is her visiting HIV patients and sick children, embracing them regardless of what was wrong with them. And we remember her beauty, her taste in clothes, her fabulous wardrobe, her ups and downs emotionally, her weight problems -- issues with which most girls and young women can identify.
That 33.3 million people watched the funeral and burial, probably wins the prize, for the most watched funeral in history.
Former President Ronald Reagan's mid-day funeral drew 20.8 million people on June 11, 2004. A prime-time program on Reagan that same evening drew an estimated 35.07 million viewers (but it apparently falls into a documentary/tribute category).
Never to be forgotten are the deaths of JFK and RFK, and of course, the recent death of Ted Kennedy -- the death and funeral of Elvis Presley -- Grace Kelly's fabulous wedding and her funeral -- Diana's "Fairy Tale" wedding -- the funeral of Pope John Paul II -- and the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
Millions, probably billions have watched these events over the course of the years.
But the number that means something to me -- January, 2009, Obama's inauguration was watched by 38 million, on many, many multiple networks.
Digging into the numbers, I found more and more numbers and networks showing and proving that President Barack Obama's inauguration likely will have been watched by more people and on more platforms than any other televised event in U.S. history -- including the Super Bowl.
Inauguration day, and election eve, the crowd in Grant Park in Chicago changed history, and profoundly changed the world I'm living in.
And golly, I have to say that those two days will be held onto, hugged and cherished by me, till I'm no longer around.