Nielsen Ratings, Crowd Estimates, Internet Traffic – Smaller Than Hoped.

January 20th was surely a great day in American history, the inauguration of President Obama into the Oval Office, our nation’s first black president. The media hype leading up to the inauguration was volcanic while the TV coverage was endless on all the cable and news channels. We were led to believe that this would be the most watched TV event in history, that Washington would be overwhelmed by the crowd, and that the internet would buckle under the pressure while the entire world watched the events unfold.

What happened?

It turns out that the Nielsen ratings disappointed. The results will be spun as the “most watched since Reagan” but that doesn’t live up to the moment and misleads readers. The converse is a salient point, which is that Obama’s inauguration earned nowhere near the TV market share received by Ronald Reagan despite the media’s insistence that yesterday would be historically unmatched.

The Nielsen ratings were somewhat higher than George Bush II’s first inauguration in 2001, but just slightly higher than Bill Clinton’s share in 1993. Television ratings were lower than Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and equivalent to Richard Nixon’s. Perhaps shockingly, American Idol was far more watched than Obama’s inauguration coverage.

It turns out that the crowds in Washington were not as big as expected. The Washington Post warned us that 3 million visitors would drown the city, but even the live estimate of 2 million people Tuesday morning turned out to by hype. Aerial scanning by experts revised that estimate downward by half to just a million people or slightly more. That is an impressive crowd but apparently not a record for presidential inaugurations.

And on the internet, hardly a blip was registered. Videos streamed as usual and everything was normal even inside liberal colleges which were giddy for the occasion. There were times when and were slow, which often happens on hot news days, but the sites were functioning almost as normal. YouTube experienced no obvious performance problems. On our own domain, we were slow in the morning for the live streaming thread, but no issues by the afternoon. In terms of visits, our day was comparable with the Florida GOP primary and Democrat primaries in Texas and Ohio.

All of this is may be unfortunate because this really was a great day in American history. But the Obama inauguration was clearly over-hyped by a rosy Press while the ratings and interest fell short of expectations. Interested in reader comments.