Web Site Measurement? You’re on Your Own.
Just when publishers are finally developing e-media brands with confidence, the ever-changing Internet landscape is conspiring to make sure audience-measurement rules remain in flux. After all, our business is about details, right? Get the facts, make sure they’re accurate, and build an advertising business off credible information;not to mention credible audience metrics.
Yet in Matt Kinsman’s report on page 8, “Web Measurement Morass,” Web site metrics, despite measurement efforts by comScore Media Metrix and Nielsen NetRatings, remain in a fuzzy-number vacuum. What’s more, the industry doesn’t seem to get too worked up over it.
Early in 2005, a cookie controversy erupted over findings by Jupiter Research that claimed as much as 58 percent of users delete these little text files that are left on their computers as tracking elements for Web sites. The research firm also found that 39 percent delete them monthly. Cookies are vital to site measurement;helpful in determining unique and returning visitors, among other user characteristics. For example, if a returning visitor deletes her cookie cache, when she returns to a site, she’ll be labeled a unique visitor. That story was promptly absorbed.
Earlier this summer, Forbes.com’s traffic data, measured by comScore, needed to be severely revised, which Kinsman notes in his story. That issue fell by the wayside, too. And in the October issue of Folio:, Eric Shanfelt, Penton’s vice president of e-media strategy, notes that, usually of pure ignorance, publishers are still confusing hits, impressions and visitors per month [“Behind the Numbers,” page 29]. “I can’t believe that some sites still try to tell advertisers how many hits their Web site gets a month, but it happens every day,” he says.
The content and advertising dynamic online has yet to be impacted by such seemingly devastating reports. For now, audience measurement still remains largely dependent on, and sold from, the metrics of visitors and page views.
For the most part, no one’s accusing anyone of foul play here, and publishers are left to quantify and qualify their traffic as best they can. Yet, it does seem like there will come a day when there will have to be a measurement reckoning, whether standardized or audited consistently.