ABCi, the interactive auditing unit of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, provides Internet measurement and third-party verification services for online advertisers. The arrangement calls for ABCi to add an auditing component to WebSideStory's technology called HitBox Enterprise (www.hitboxenterprise.com), which analyzes Internet site traffic. The two companies say the browser-based auditing service, unlike those that analyze user log files, is more scalable for high-volume Web sites, and less intrusive to clients because they don't have to prepare reams of site traffic information for an audit. "We take care of the collection of information, the processing of the information and the reporting and analyzing of the information," said Michael Christian, senior VP at WebSideStory.
"One of the issues we've recognized for some time is that any audits place certain demands on the publisher, which need to provide us with an accounting of their activity," added Scott Hanson, VP-auditing services at ABCi. "With this system, the client no longer has a direct interface with an auditor."
The two companies believe the browser-based solution will appeal to clients because they don't have to install software on servers, which can be complicated because often Web properties use many servers. The browser-based system, they say, is much simpler, because a site needs only to install a piece of HitBox Enterprise code on a Web page for it to be counted. ABCi's former auditing system was a seven-step process that involved collecting and archiving log files, installing software and then having to monitor the log files.
"This kind of thing makes enormous sense," said Peter Christy, a research fellow with Jupiter Research, explaining that the browser-based auditing system paints a real-time picture of all of a site's activity, instead of having to piece it all together from separate server logs and cached pages afterward. "I'm convinced in the long run all visitor analysis will be done in this way."
ABCi competes with BPA International and Engage's I/PRO Internet auditing services, both of which rely on server log files. While no clients have signed up for the joint offering, ABCi and WebSideStory seem confident that their existing clients will be interested. ABCi's clients include heavyweights like AOL Time Warner for the America Online service, Weider Publications and Yahoo!
WebSideStory serves 200,000 sites, from Cisco Systems and Business.com to Hewlett Packard Co. and Kinkos.com. Prices for the joint service were unavailable, but the HitBox Enterprise offering starts at $1,295 a month and scales up depending on a site's volume.
It's been around since 1995, but ABCi has taken several steps in the last year to increase market share. In May its parent, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, named a separate board for ABCi. Marianne Caponnetto, VP-worldwide media/digital media of IBM Corp., was named chairwoman, while Alec Gerster, exec VP-media services, Grey Advertising, New York, was named vice chairman. In July, Bruce Smith, former general manager at Tribune Co.'s ChicagoSports.com, was named president-CEO.