Is ComScore's Bartered Data Worth Real Revenue? Controversial Accounting Says Yes.

Observers Question Firm's Accounting Tactics Valuing Data Swaps

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How do companies value data? That all depends on whether they're buying, selling, or in the case of ComScore, swapping it. The analytics firm employed a controversial accounting tactic that reflects its own estimate of the value of data it exchanged with other companies to develop products such as its Xmedia product which measures audiences across TV ad digital channels.

A Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) sheds light on ComScore's Q2 revenue growth, up 14% from the previous year. It turns out $10.8 million of its $91.4 million in revenue during the quarter was labeled by ComScore as "nonmonetary." Exclude that nonmonetary revenue, and growth dwindles to 3% year-over-year, says the story.

"Nonmonetary revenue is financialspeak to say that comScore booked revenue from barter agreements where actual cash wouldn't be changing hands. In this case, it was for the exchange of data with other companies."

Though in compliance with accounting standards, the practice should be scrutinized because it resulted in such a large portion of ComScore's reported revenue growth, writes the WSJ's Miriam Gottfried. ComScore's filings show that nonmonetary revenue has grown to 8% in the past year from 2% the previous year.

ComScore may not be alone in its approach to accounting for its data barter deals, but what would be especially interesting would be to learn just how the company determined the value of the data exchanged.

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