Trying a New Way to Measure Online Audience

Q&A: Quantcast CMO Adam Gerber

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NEW YORK ( -- Adam Gerber left Brightcove when the company shifted strategy from being a media seller to a technology provider. He's landed in the chief marketing officer role at Quantcast, an online measurement startup trying to challenge the two giants in the space, ComScore and Nielsen/NetRatings.
Adam Gerber
Adam Gerber

Measuring online audiences isn't easy and it certainly isn't without its controversies. ComScore and Nielsen, both of which are undergoing accreditation from the Media Ratings Council, cull giant panels of online consumers to report data for websites; Quantcast, meanwhile, supplements a panel with a pixel-based approach that places a measurement pixel or "tag" on publisher sites and then keeps a record of those viewing the site's content.

Advertising Age: Why do we need another online audience measurement service? After all, we already have two!

Adam Gerber: Look, it's clear today's audience-measurement solutions, which are primarily panel based, do a number of things well. But they do not provide foundation or level of detail that'll be required to measure precisely the very niche segments of the web and eventually addressable TV that media buyers and marketers are going to want to evaluate. And it's not because panel services are inherently faulty but inherently too small to capture the level of detail across a highly fragmented media landscape. The reality is there are many cable networks that can't have audiences reported because panels are too small.

Advertising Age:It's interesting you raise addressable TV. Is video one of the big issues?

Mr. Gerber: There's close to $100 billion being spent today in TV and online advertising by brand marketers. The majority, if not all of that money, is being spent based on audience analysis tools that are 30, 40, 50 years old. In the web space they're a decade old but the methodologies of how those tools work are basically same as the TV space. We're using antiquated systems in an era where the media landscape has changed dramatically. We don't have 5, 10, 20 media properties to evaluate. We literally have millions. As fragmentation increases, the power and value of panel-based measurement decreases.

Advertising Age: How do you get around that?

Mr. Gerber: There are three key areas that'll help unlock value of media in the future. First is transparency because buyers need to know and be comfortable with numbers they're using to make investment decisions. ... The second is relevancy and targeting. We're moving from a world of selling placements as a proxy for audience, from an old world where you're selling TV units or magazine placements, to an addressable world where marketers and agencies buy the people they care about. It's not about buying a show or website as proxy of an audience but about buying audience. It requires incredibly detailed audience measurement and reporting services. Third is depth. ... You need to measure everything and today's audience-measurement services don't do that. The only way it'll evolve is to provide better tools.

Advertising Age: Your approach requires cookies, and critics, including ComScore, point to studies that show cookie deletion often over-counts sites.

Mr. Gerber: The reality is all the things you talked about can be very easily managed through very aggressive modeling techniques and statistical techniques. We would argue that approach is in the end a much more reliable approach to audience measurement than trying to build highly detailed audience estimates off very small samples. Even if you can adjust for things you mentioned, the issues of small panel sizes and ability to measure small sites is a bigger problem because you cannot model to correct that.

Advertising Age: Last time I asked Quantcast how you guys were making money I was told you're not -- yet. But there must be a business plan in place.

Mr. Gerber: We are not charging for data. Not now, not ever. We'll provide the entire marketplace with audience estimates they can use for free. ... Over the next three to six months you'll see dramatic changes in the tools we offer to agencies for planning purposes and to publishers for audience-segmentation and packaging purchases. ... If we can provide publishers with the ability to segment and package audience-based impressions and schedules and then deliver that exact schedule to an advertiser, that's a huge win for publishers because they can charge substantially more for that inventory and a huge win for advertisers because they will be eliminating waste and proving impact and delivery. ... We won't be selling publishers' inventory but rather want to provide them with tools to segment and sell audiences in a more dynamic way and participate in that through some kind of monetary exchange.
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