Regular readers will know I have a bee in my bonnet about audience measurement online. Frankly, it’s not just broken … it’s completely flawed.
Where does the problem originate? Well – a few things. The medium still claims to be new … 15+ years on. The medium hides behind technology advancement as a reason why it’s seen to be slow to react. Advertisers don’t really care too deeply about measurement (not the same way they do about TV measurement, for instance). Plus, the industry is growing so the unspoken sentiment is to ‘not do anything that might impact the growth of the industry.’
Thing is, the crappy measurement we all cop will impact the growth of the industry. Maybe not now, but soon enough.
A great start would be an industry body initiating a set of guidelines that its members must adhere to. The ABA are doing this, but the problem is no one really answers to them. It is difficult for the ABA to really drive an issue to the level required.
My feeling is a central body needs to take control of this.
In the US, it’s the IAB.
They have a set of guidelines around Audience Measurement that is clear and concise.
You can view it here – http://www.iab.net/media/file/Audience_Reach_Guidelines.pdf
Some key takeouts
– client initiated counting is crucial
– non human activities must be excluded
– caching must be accounted for
– internal traffic must be excluded
– transparency to data users is the paramount goal of the guidelines
We need to remove from all ‘third party’ data any page impression that is not human initiated. ie – any page impression that is a result of a browser auto-refreshing a page really shouldn’t be counted. We should remove the impact this has on time spent metrics.
How hard is it to do this? It would seem to an onlooker it is pretty difficult.
First of all, those using it hide behind sentiment like ‘but we must use full page auto refresh to make sure users have the most updated news’ … not true.
Some hide behind ‘well, everyone else does it so why should we take a stand’ … others really don’t care.
Many claim they ‘can’t afford it’ – baulking at the $12k Nielsen charge (not to mention the ABA cost) as ‘too expensive’ even though audience measurement through a third party has been a basic cost of running a media business for decades. At the same time, they’re more than happy to talk to corporate advertisers about corporate ad budgets.
And others – and these are the worst kind – do it because without it they don’t have a business.
Thing is – they have a business that exists because of unethical practices. Without being able to position on a completely false platform of engagement, no one would have a reason to use them.
Wow. Just wow.