BPA, ABC wade deeper into auditing digital audiences

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Earlier this month, digital media and marketing community Digiday released a survey indicating that 64% of marketers plan to increase their online brand advertising budgets this year.

As brand advertising continues to grow in importance relative to online lead generation, the measurement and verification of online audience—compared with the measurement of clickthroughs and other digital interactions—is moving to the forefront. With the increasing importance of audience measurement, BPA Worldwide and the Audit Bureau of Circulations are continuing to adapt to the digital age.

This month, BPA Worldwide's board released a host of new rules, many of them dealing with verifying audience for digital editions and the Internet. And ABC Interactive, also this month, released its first m.Audit report, which is a standalone report that presents audited mobile usage data of a newspaper's mobile website. The first report was for the Orange County Register.

“The m.Audit is a new service that reflects the growing importance of tablets, smartphones and mobile devices in today's media landscape,” Neal Lulofs, exec VP-general manager of ABCi, said in a statement.

In a Jan. 9 news release, BPA outlined several rule changes that have implications for the measurement of digital audiences. The organization reaffirmed that magazine apps and magazine apps with additional functions, such as news feeds, can be reported as digital copies.

BPA, however, said apps that are related to the magazine brand but deliver data, games or other non-editorial content could not be counted as digital copies. But the number of downloads of these apps could be included in a BPA Brand Report, which tallies separately the audiences a brand reaches through print, websites, email newsletters, conferences and other media.

BPA also ruled that source and age parameters will be applied equally to requests for digital and print publications. Primarily, this rule now allows non-requested digital editions to be reported as qualified provided they meet certain stipulations, such as providing proof of production, distribution and demographic data not older than three years for digital editions.

In another change, BPA said a subscriber's downloading of digital editions would constitute a renewal. For a weekly publication, the subscriber must access a digital edition nine times every six months to be classified as renewed. For a monthly publication, the digital edition must be accessed at least twice every six months.

These moves by BPA and ABC are necessary because marketers, media companies and media buyers are demanding them. But the traditional auditing companies are being driven by competitors, too.

For instance, comScore recently introduced Validated Campaign Essentials, which provides an unduplicated accounting of ad impressions to ensure that ads are served to the appropriate targets and are able to be viewed.

Another company, ClearStream, recently introduced a system to verify a standard of quality for online video advertising site inventory. And the numerous companies that offer analytics are key competitors, offering almost instant analysis of ad performance—which may eventually make audience auditors obsolete.

“Although [BPA and ABC] are not the first players to come in terms of digital audience, they do bring a credibility to the market,” said Ted Kohnen, VP-interactive at Stein + Partners Brand Activation.

Kohnen added that the BPA and ABC are experienced in counting targeted audiences precisely. “The difference between 50,000 impressions and 25,000 impressions is huge in b-to-b,” he said.

But Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at Outsell Inc., expects that analytics and other forms of measurement will eventually eat into the market share held by the audit bureaus. “Just counting audiences, or leads, is becoming less important to advertisers than specific qualification at the time the advertiser engages the prospect,” Richard said. “And there is a mad race featuring hundreds of companies trying to provide that data. The days of only one or two audit agencies dominating are fading, although the pace of the shifts is practically generational.”

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