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ComScore and Nielsen/NetRatings on Thursday buckled to advertisers demands that auditors be allowed to review the way the web site-ranking companies come up with Internet metrics.
The agreement to undergo a more complete audit addresses one area of complaint from the advertising groups, but still left vague is a basic philosophical difference in audience measurement outlined in the IAB’s letter. In it the IAB stated that it favors a “census method of trying to count every single visitor. comScore and Nielsen, meanwhile, prefer a panel method, based on a representative sampling of participants.
Of course the panel method has some pretty severe limits, especially for smaller sites. You may have stable traffic, but a panelist or two showing up (or not) causes wide swings in their stats for you. On the other hand, counting every single visitor opens you up to swarms of bots trying to skew the stats.
Maybe they'll both have to get larger, broader, more representative panels to compete now. That could enhance accuracy.
comScore and Nielsen, meanwhile, prefer a panel method
Well - they would, because it's a bigger barrier to entry. But I really think they have no choice but to open up. How on earth can you profess to provide research data without having the statistical analysis and methods open to scrutiny?
Conscore tried to bite back [webmasterworld.com] with a claim abourt coookie tracking, but it's hard to throw stones when you lilve in a glass house.
Biggest problem with these guys....their work panels are microscopic.
So are Nielsen's TV ratings panels, but advertisers don't seem to mind. Of course, there are a lot more Web sites than there are TV channels, so it's easy to see why the TV-ratings approach might viewed with skepticism on the Web.
I think there are bigger problems than the size of the ratings panel, though. A few years ago, FORBES reported on how About.com had subverted the MediaMetrix rankings by buying HTML popunder windows as ads. MediaMetrix counted the popunders as visits or pageviews. (Come to think of it, X10.com ranked as one of the "most visited sites on the Web" for what I assume was the same reason.)
The ironic thing is that this hurts advertisers (the only people who really use these services) because when evaluating sites, ones with a more affluent demographic should have a greater percent of their traffic coming from people in offices and that traffic gets under reported.
And yes there are so many problems with their methodology that its hard to point to one as the big weakness.