VNU first Web publisher to receive ABC audit in U.K.

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LONDON -- VNU Business Publications, publisher of computer and business management publications, claims that it's U.K. Internet site is the first to receive an Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) audit for the traffic on its site. The site was audited by ABC//electronic based on an independent globally agreed standard of "page impressions" or pages requested by readers rather than "hits."

The audit of, VNU's on-line editions of 18 business and finance publications, recorded 188,306 page impressions for the month of February. It was the first ABC Internet site audit of a U.K.-based organization by and for the U.K. industry, according to Richard Foan, head of ABC//electronic. "Just as ABC audits became the 20th century standard for print publishing, so I believe that ABC//electronic audits will be the Internet model of the next millennium based on industry agreed standards."

The ABC was created in Britain in the 1930s because of a dispute in the publishing industry with publishers trying to sell ad space based on circulation figures, but with advertisers challenging their claims. The ABC was set up as a non-profit industry watchdog to verify circulation claims. The U.K.'s ABC is the world's largest circulation auditing group after the U.S. and Canada. ABC//electronic was formed early this year to certify traffic in electronic media.

John Barnes, publisher of new media at VNU, is critical of relying on "hits" to measure Web traffic. "Hits, by their very nature, are dishonest and if publishers are using hits as the only measure of their site then they are short changing their users and advertisers. Hits mean nothing because they measure both requested and non-requested information on a web site and that can include a dozen graphics that appear on the opening page. Page impressions, where specific information and pages are requested, give the true picture."

Sarah du Heaume, managing director of Just Media, which has placed advertising space on VNU's, welcomes the move. "It is high time for Internet sites which create income from advertising to make themselves accountable as other media are."

Copyright April 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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