Category Archives: Measurement

Snowed out: Testing ISP Speeds on a Snow Day

What happens when the internet, the backbone of our high-tech economy, is down?  That’s a question recently brought to the forefront of the public’s attention, between the debate over Net Neutrality, hacking attacks, and President Obama’s recent proposal to expand broadband options.  Despite years of gains,  millions of Americans lack broadband access, and even where it is available speeds often lag other markets.  Yet we’re also more reliant on the web than ever before, constantly connected whether at home, at work, or anywhere on the go with smartphones. It’s easy to take for granted the benefits of fast, reliable broadband internet – at least until we lose our own connections.

Snow crossing signDuring the recent hurricanes and winter storms which managed to shut down major parts of the U.S. East Coast, there were numerous reports of internet service outages and website downtime for major hubs like Huffington Post and Netflix.  Some of these issues could have been caused by infrastructure damage from the storms, but at least some downtime was attributed to servers buckling under the load of millions more Americans simultaneously logging-on while stuck indoors during the inclement weather.  In fact, even during normal nights Netflix can account for as much as one-third of internet traffic during the peak evening hours, straining web servers and ISP networks.

Knowing these trends I formed a hypothesis: local ISPs would crumble during last week’s storm (Winter Storm Juno) under the heavy load of snowed-in users. To test my hypothesis, I recruited a simple network sample, emailing my friends across the New York metro area to run speed tests at the same time: around 9 PM EST on Monday, January 26th 2015. For the methodology we used SpeedOf.me to gauge speeds, while I collected details about each participant’s ISP and connection type, attempting to rule out as many variables as possible.  So here are some results from our little experiment: Continue reading Snowed out: Testing ISP Speeds on a Snow Day

Media Universe: Exploring Consumers’ Expanding Use of Digital Devices

Media device ownership in 2013

Today consumers own more devices than ever before, and the greatest growth comes from digital devices, many of which didn’t even exist a few years ago.  If fact, according to Nielsen’s recent Digital Consumer Report (full disclosure: I helped research and create this report) not only do the majority of Americans now own smartphones, but during 2013 time spent accessing the internet using smartphone apps (34 hours per person on average) surpassed time spent surfing the web on computers (27 hours on average).  Whether consumers using the devices to access media or connect with one another, advertisers and marketers must follow consumer’s eyeballs as they jump across multiple screens and platforms.

So where do consumers spend their time and attention when using media? Continue reading Media Universe: Exploring Consumers’ Expanding Use of Digital Devices

Hitchhiker’s Guide: Mapping the Consumer Media Universe

Mapping the Media Universe as a solar system of devices
(click to enlarge the Media Universe infographic)

The media universe is constantly expanding, so as consumers adopt more devices and gadgets their usage of how they watch, shop, and connect continues to evolve; today the media universe revolves around the consumer.  As the media landscape changes, PRs, Advertisers, and Marketers must navigate this new media universe, understanding not just all the gadgets consumers own, but also how they use media across devices to form their own behaviors.

Working with Nielsen’s data to provide insights into cross-platform media usage, I helped design the 2012 Consumer Usage Report from concept through completion, including the above inforgraphic meant to help navigate the media universe just in time for CES in January 2013.  Using the common marketing metaphor of the “universe”, meaning all people in the target audience, this visualization provides a snapshot overview of the US media market.  Visualizing the media universe as a solar system of planets (devices) which revolve around the sun (consumers), this infographic maps consumer ownership of digital devices (computers, mobile, tablets, etc) and devices connected to the TV (cable/satellite, game consoles, etc).  Pulling these devices together is gravity, illustrated by how are consumers spending their media time, and some may be surprised that the overwhelming majority of time spent (150+ hours per month) is watching traditional and time-shifted TV.

At the same time consumers’ media habits are rapidly changing, and the media universe continues to expand to incorporare new devices akin to a technological big bang.  During 2012 smartphones became the majority of mobile users in the US for the first time, and nearly 1 in 5 households now owns a tablet computer.  Social media usage continues to grow, and while many more consumers are using it on the go most still connect to social networks using their home computers.  And for cord-cutters like me who get much of their viewing through online stream sites, it may be surprising to learn only 4% of households own IPTV sets, but with 56% of homes using video game consoles it seems likely at least a few are watching video on Netflix and Hulu on their TVs as well.


To learn more about the how consumers use tech and media in their daily lives, please download the full report from Nielsen’s website.  And to see more examples of infographics and data visualizations I’ve worked on, check out my portfolio on this site.

TV by the Numbers: How I cut-the-cord and share my viewing online

Remote Controller 2
As television networks kick off the upfronts introducing new programs and picking up where existing series left off, there is increasing conversation about using social media to connect fans and viewers with their favorite shows, as well as how many may be cutting-the-cord altogether. Full disclosure: I’m an employee at Nielsen, who have a great perspective of cross-platform insights into what consumers watch, but the measurements shared in this post are my own and are not necessarily shared by my employer.

First, here’s a funny and surprisingly accurate primer on how TV viewing is measured in the US (from Jess3 and ESPN):

Appointment Viewing

For the last two years I’ve been using social media tools like Get Glue, Miso, and IntoNow to track my viewing and to share my favorite TV shows with friends. These social networks use websites and smartphone apps to encourage more social viewing, opening up the sometimes isolated TV watching experience by connecting viewers who check-in to the same program and generating conversations among fans of the shows. For example, here are some of the shows I’ve checked-in to most recently: Continue reading TV by the Numbers: How I cut-the-cord and share my viewing online

Blogging by the numbers: Measuring my writing and blog readers

Ever since I started blogging in 2004 I’ve been trying to better understand my audience of blog readers through stats like unique visitors, pageviews, social media shares, or the number of comments readers add to each post. Analyzing these data points gives me a better a understanding of which pages interest my visitors most, and helps me think of new blog posts I hope will resonate with my audience. As an online marketing strategist I also try look at how readers come to my blog, focusing my efforts on what content I can offer which will introduce new readers to my blog, as well as how to connect with them outside my own website.

In the interest of trying to become more transparent as a blogger, here’s a look back measuring my own blog’s audience during 2011:

Matthew Hurst's Year in blogging 2011
Source: http://jetpack.me/annual-report/6790360/2011/
  • A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
  • In 2011 there were 15 new posts on the blog, growing the total archive on this blog to 61 posts so far.
  • Twitter and Facebook were my main sources of referral traffic, but increasingly Google+ brought new readers to my site.
  • I’ve had far fewer comments in 2011 than in previous years, and average less than a comment per post.
  • My most read posts in 2011 were actually from previous years, bringing in visitors searching for “Twitter internships” and how to become “Social Media Marketers“, showing the long-term value of SEO built through blog writing.
  • Continue reading Blogging by the numbers: Measuring my writing and blog readers

Facebook by the Numbers: Measuring my friends on the social network

Not only is Facebook increasingly synonymous with social media usage, but it’s ubiquity reaches more than 7 out of 10 web users every month, and a growing number of weekly and daily users like myself.  Here’s a few more ways to understand the impact of Facebook:

My 550+ friends on Facebook represent only a fraction of Facebook’s 800+ million registered users, but it represents a historic shift in creating larger circles of friends. Thanks to Facebook’s ubiquitous popularity, I’m able to keep in touch with friends in high school and college who live hundreds (and thousands) of miles away, whereas only a few years earlier I would more easily fall out of contact with my friends. Since I grew up in the Facebook generation, I’m not alone in using the social network to keep loose-ties with old friends following my own graduation and relocation to New York City.  Here’s a few more stats about how I use Facebook to connect with friends:

Infographic on Matthew Hurst's Facebook friends
Facebook Infographic via ShoutFlow.com

5 years ago I reluctantly joined the social network, admittedly at the behest of Lauren Reid who wanted to make our relationship “Facebook official”. I’m happy to say we’re still “in a relationship” (even though only 24% of my friends are single), and that I’ve been hooked on Facebook ever since.  Here’s how I used Facebook when I first started:

Matthew Hurst's early posts on Facebook with Lauren Reid, in infographic form

I’ve seen this social network grow from a core of friends and college classmates into an everyday network of family and friends used by some people I never thought I’d interact with online; most recently my Mom even signed up! You can connect with me through my Facebook profile or by becoming a fan of my Facebook page for this website.

Nielsen’s Social Media Report

Data visualization of demographics on social media sites from Nielsen's Social Media Report
Last month Nielsen (my employer) released a new State of the Media report focused on social media use in the US and around the world. This report offers a unique snapshot overview of the social media landscape, using measurements of consumers’ behavior in their browsers rather than survey data. It reveals not only the significant growth among the population visiting social networks and blogs, but also who makes up the audience on these sites and how they use social media.  Here’s a few highlights of its key findings and takeaways:

  • More than 4 in 5 American who are active online visited Social Media websites within the last month
  • About a quarter of all time spent online is using Social Networks & Blog sites, more than twice as much as the next nearest category of websites.
  • Facebook is by far the most popular social networking website globally, and in the U.S. Tumblr is among the fastest growing
  • Growth in social media users comes from people of all ages and increasingly among those aged 55+, making social media more representative of the online population overall

As a member of Nielsen’s global communications team (full disclosure), I helped research and write this report, working together with our thoughts leaders/experts and designers to create compelling data visualizations that help convey Nielsen’s insights into consumer behavior.  The response to the report has been overwhelmingly positive, with coverage by key news media and thousands of links shared across social networks. Of course all ideas/opinions expressed on this site and in social media are my own (and are not necessarily shared by my employer), so hopefully you find the analysis and insight in this report as helpful as I do.

Visit the Nielsen’s website to read the Social Media Report and download a copy of your own.