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New Online Measurement Embraced by Publishers

11 Aug 2010

The Audit Bureaux of Australia's (ABA's) campaign for measurement reform is showing results with an increasing number of online publishers changing their website measurement practises in order to comply with the ABA's web audit process. Austereo, Allure Media and Independent Digital Media are among the group of recent publishers to improve the accuracy and credibility of their website metrics by removing publisher-generated traffic from these figures.

Publisher-generated traffic refers to any web traffic that is not generated by actual people visiting a website, such as when a publisher sets a web page to automatically reload every few minutes. This automated traffic does not represent activity from real people and therefore can severely inflate audience figures and waste advertiser's money on unseen ads. Web pages can automatically refresh for hours or even days if a web browser is left open in the background.

As a result, the inclusion of publisher-generated traffic can potentially cause a substantial inflation of the audience figures that publishers use for trade marketing and benchmarking.

Paul Elliott, OMD's Head of Digital said "We're glad to see more publishers embracing the audit process and becoming rules-compliant. OMD fully support the efforts of the ABA in the drive to provide agencies with numbers we can trust. We're beginning to implement policies to give preferential consideration to those publishers who provide complete transparency, so we encourage all publishers to be audited by the ABA."

ABA case studies have shown that a website's Page Impression metrics can double and Average Session Duration more than quadruple if publisher-generated traffic such as auto-refreshing pages is allowed to be counted towards their figures. Publishers use these figures as key measures of user engagement so it's a serious problem if publishers bypass the audit process and gain an unfair competitive advantage by reporting inflated figures.

Adam Furness, Austereo's Interactive Sales Director said "Austereo is proud to provide our advertisers with the highest standard of figures possible and to prove that our measurement practises are trustworthy. As the online industry continues to grow it's the responsibility of publishers to ensure that the metrics are at a standard comparable to other audited media."

James Hannan, General Manager of Independent Digital Media said, "Being ABA audited allows advertisers and agencies to engage with us and be certain that the numbers we present to them are in fact accurate and reliable. We want relationships built on trust and integrity, and we feel this is one step towards developing that. I am personally very supportive of the ABA and would love to see an industry move towards media buying based on 'ABA green ticks'. I truly believe advertisers will see better results from those who pass the audit and in turn offer them the most transparency."

The ABA audit process not only checks for the inclusion of auto-refreshing traffic, there are many other hidden measurement issues which lead to the use of inaccurate figures in the market. Other issues include inconsistent measurement of online video, audio players, image galleries and incorrect classification of sites. Missing tracking tags from pages and other technical errors typically lead to website traffic being undercounted.

Paul Dovas, ABA's Director of Audit said "Accurate measurement goes beyond the use of tracking tags; it requires independent 3rd-party scrutiny to ensure that the tags are implemented correctly and consistently in accordance with industry agreed rules and guidelines. As a non-profit industry body, the ABA, through its tripartite membership covering a mix of advertisers, agencies and publishers is best placed to cut through the clutter stemming from the horde of measurement solutions and publisher claims."

Chris Janz, Managing Director of Allure Media said "Despite being the most measurable medium, some web publishers have, for too long, engaged in tricks that artificially inflate audience numbers, causing mistrust in online figures. The ABA audit provides much-needed transparency and ensures publishers compete on a level playing field. We're proud to have earned our ABA green tick and know advertisers can now have absolute confidence in our audience numbers."


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