Posted April 20, 2007 3:34 pm by with 1 comment

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Apparently I’m not the only one questioning recent news in the web analytics world. ClickZ has news today that the Interactive Advertising Bureau is challenging the methodologies of the Internet measurement giants.

In a letter by IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg, the IAB questions the panel-based methodology still in use by comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings (incidentally, this sampling methodology is also still the basis of Nielsen’s television ratings). Rothernberg writes:

To be sure, sample-based research built the media industry as we know it. Our great broadcasters, magazine companies, and newspapers, as well as the giant consumer brands that depended on them to reach audiences, derived from the small panels of Americans who allowed their TV sets to be wired, filled in diaries, or sent prepaid postcards listing their preferences back to the research firms in the Princeton-New York corridor. But an exact count – that was marketing’s Holy Grail, and the Internet put it within reach.

(Which is why we find it galling to hear that online ads have “insufficient accountability.”)

Does Rothenberg expect panel-based methods to soon become obsolete? Hardly:

I . . . know that panel methodologies will remain important. Still, it is incumbent on all of us in the marketing-media value chain to come as close as we can to the ideal of true accountability. To continue to close the gap between sample and census requires dialogue, collaboration, and auditing according to a set of independent, transparent standards.

Authoritative, comprehensive numbers, based on standards that we all can read, know and (maybe) understand? Sounds pretty good to me—can we kiss Alexa goodbye yet?

He concludes:

So please join the IAB’s Board, the MRC, and other representatives of the marketing, media and advertising industries whom we might collectively engage, in a summit meeting on audience measurement. All we ask for is a timetable by which your companies and ours can create the audience measurement infrastructure the marketplace is now demanding.

comScore and NTRT haven’t responded yet. What do you think they’ll say? As much as I’d like them to agree, I can’t picture them participating in an audit, and Rothenberg acknowledges that they’ve called for audits several times before and gone unanswered.

  • Since all these guys only seem interested in measuring fluff numbers (like “number of queries performed”) anyway, it should not be a big deal to anyone.