BPA QUESTIONS INT'L AUDIT STANDARDS: EXECS SKEPTICAL OF AUDIT BUREAU'S INVOLVEMENT IN NEW WEB GAUGE

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BPA International claims an imminent U.S. announcement about worldwide standards for World Wide Web audits could send the wrong message about global consensus on auditing terms.

According to BPA, the standards, developed by the International Federation of Audit Bureaux of Circulation and approved by the U.S. Audit Bureau of Circulations, were developed prematurely and don't accurately reflect the interests of the larger Web advertising community. BPA also expressed concerns about how these standards could give ABC an unfair competitive edge.

BPA audits primarily controlled-circulation magazines, and ABC audits consumer print titles. Each organization also has competing Web auditing services.

DISAGREEMENT

BPA disagrees with the findings of a December meeting of a working group established last September by IFABC, the Europe-based organization of more than 30 print auditing organizations. That working group said, in an internal statement, international standards for Web measurement should be based primarily on page impressions, with visits and sessions also acceptable.

The work group also defined "users" and discussed how automated search engines and frames influence measurement.

BPA executives noted that not all of the international audit bodies represented by the work group have completed their first Web audits.

In addition, BPA is suspicious of ABC's approval, especially amid strong U.S. debates over standards on everything from Web auditing to audience measurement.

"We think ABC U.S. may be trying to license their product abroad," said Glenn Hansen, BPA's senior VP-auditing, sugges-ting ABC's endorsement of the plans may be a hasty move to propel its services-including its right to license WebTrack's WebFacts auditing product-into new auditing relationships abroad.

"Our concern is really this-who's leading the discussion?" he added.

BPA President-CEO Mike Marchesano sent a letter to work-group members Jan. 24 stating his company's position.

'MINIMUM STANDARDS'

Richard Foan of ABC U.K., co-chairman of the working group, defended his group's action, saying it developed only a "minimum set of standards." He added that BPA, ABC North America and audit groups in Sweden, the U.K., Germany and Spain have completed or will soon finish Web audits-and thus are qualified to participate in this discussion.

He also said the U.K.'s Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and Institute of Practitioners of Advertising both approved this first move towards global standards.

Audit Bureau President-Managing Director Michael J. Lavery said no international relationships have been formed with audit bodies in other countries, but that most audit bureaus abroad have been invited to consider forming partnerships

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