Earlier this week, comScore released data that said that
Mathew Ingram reports that Radiohead has contradicted comScore’s report in an official statement:
In response to purely speculative figures announced in the press regarding the number of downloads and the price paid for the album, the group’s representatives would like to remind people that… it is impossible for outside organisations to have accurate figures on sales.
However, they can confirm that the figures quoted by the company comScore Inc are wholly inaccurate and in no way reflect definitive market intelligence or, indeed, the true success of the project.
And although Radiohead now has said that comScore is wrong, they haven’t released official numbers, either, telling the BBC (via MTV) that they “not for public consumption” as “people were still downloading [the album].” Of course, sales numbers aren’t the only measure of success. If buzz and free publicity were their goal, that’s one point that’s certainly gone in their favor.
Naturally, comScore is rebutting Radiohead’s rebuttal and defending their ability to “reflect definitive marketing intelligence” (which is, after all, their bread and butter) on their blog:
For the Radiohead study, we observed the activity of nearly one thousand people who visited the “In Rainbows” site, a significant percentage of whom downloaded the album. We ultimately observed several hundred paid transactions, all of which ranged between $0-$20, representing a very robust sample for estimating the average price paid per transaction. It’s true that any sample has natural variability, so these numbers are, in fact, estimates. However, when you have a relatively large sample falling within a narrow range of values (i.e. there’s a small standard deviation), the margin of error in the estimate is minimized.
Many people seem to think that comScore’s 2-million-member panel must not have been representative of the proportion of rabid Radiohead fans out there who gladly paid for the album (although the long-time Radiohead fans I know didn’t pay a dime).
However, the entire premise behind statistics is that you can look at a small (sometimes amazingly small!) proportion of the population and with a fair amount of confidence extrapolate that information to reflect the full population.
So is comScore “wholly inaccurate”? I’d be willing to buy that they’re not perfectly on, but until I see actual figures, I’ll go with the data I’ve got.