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Wanted: Arbiter for site statistics

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Today there is no single source to go to to verify publishers' Web audience numbers. This makes our reporting and rankings at Media Business difficult. What's worse, it makes it difficult for advertisers to choose where to spend their online marketing budgets, if they want objective data.

The national panels done by comScore Media Metrix and Nielsen//NetRatings are not considered accurate by b-to-b media companies with Web sites, if they are even large enough to be measured by them. We at Media Business and BtoB have decided to rely on the publishers' self-reported data, sourced from WebTrends, Omniture Inc. and WebSideStory Inc.

It's ironic that such a medium as online, which is all about measurement, is actually not audited as well as its counterparts in print, and that all the readily available data from Web sites are not verified by a third party, one without a vested interest in the results. Yes, BPA and ABC have done some auditing, but there is no current standard for Web measurement and now advertisers are starting to ask why.

Adding to the confusion is the plain fact that every measurement platform provides different numbers.

IAB has put together some guidelines with the help of ABM, but there really is no resolution here. We need reliable, third-party data in order to accurately rank Web site "readership." In order for advertisers to choose the sites they deem leaders in a niche, they need to see data as well. I encourage you to send us your ideas; our industry needs to step up to the plate.

Bob Felsenthal can be reached at bfelsenthal@crain.com

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