My wife and I just finished the November sweeps period as a Nielsen Household. I've always known that the diary method of Nielsen was a joke, but wow, filling it out for real makes me realize how bad it is.
One week is a horrible sample from which to determine our Household's viewing patterns. Dinner with friends one night completely changed our viewing patterns. Us making the news and watching one edition of the 5 am Fox News 3x isn't exactly normal either.
While we were watching some live TV, I never once showed my flipping the MTV 2, MTV Hits, or Fuse in lookout for a music break from commercials - -I wasn't there for 15 minutes, so I wasn't supposed to. We sometimes forgot to make note of things, and were trying to figure out when we watched something...and more importantly, at what point we fell asleep during the program.
I think everyone knows that the system is flawed...severely flawed. What is even worse, that even with the severely flawed system, there is ample technology available in the form of PPMs that would provide a much more accurate measure of what people watch. Why are we not rolling this out? Aribitron and Nielsen's lack of collaboration that would allow for accurate measurement is a disgrace -- and they should work to remedy the problem quickly.