I’ve now had Nielsen “ratings” and “shares” of television audiences explained to me. It doesn’t mean I fully understand them, mind you, but it does allow me to pass along one significant conclusion. On the evening of the premiere of Traces of the Trade on PBS’s acclaimed documentary series P.O.V. approximately 1.1 million people tuned in to watch all, or most, of the film. As many as 1.7 million–which includes channel surfers–watched at least part of Traces of the Trade that evening. I don’t know what this means in terms of markets–like Oregon and Rhode Island, for instance–in which the film was broadcast on a date other than June 24. In other words, I’m not sure how the total audience would, or could, be calculated.

On the evening of June 24, P.O.V. received a .8 rating and a 1 share. The “rating” is calculated from metered stations in the top fifty markets that aired Traces and refers to the percentage of households who own TVs in each market who tuned in to watch. The “share” refers to the percentage of households with their televisions turned on that tuned in to watch. For comparison’s sake, on that same evening, NOVA at 8:00pm received a 1.1 rating. Frontline at 9:00pm received 0.9. Cable ratings for the 10:00pm hour (Traces was intended to be broadcast at 10:00pm in most markets) include CNN/0.8, Bravo/0.7, Comedy Central/0.8, HBO/0.3, History/1.0, and MSNBC/0.5.

At appearances I’ve made since June 24 I’ve had many people tell me they watched Traces on P.O.V. I’ve had many more tell me they saw or heard previews, interviews, or articles about it. The numbers of people logging onto the Traces website shot up significantly, as well as visitors to my blog. At the P.O.V. blog, where they offered people the opportunity to ask questions of the author here, the filmmaker here, and to comment on the film here, there are more than 750 postings.

P.O.V. is very pleased with these numbers. We’re also quite pleased. Interest in the film, the book, and the message of hope inherent in this ongoing American journey continues to grow.