by Dennis Yang
Tue, Oct 23rd 2007 11:58am
The common advertising problem that "half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half" was promised to be remedied by the introduction of the supposedly measurable medium of the Internet. However, in practice, the measurement of online audiences has proven to be difficult, at best. Most recently, Comscore reported a 9.3 percent drop in Facebook's traffic, which was met not by fears that the traffic to the super popular site was waning, but rather by explanations that that Comscore was likely under counting traffic from students who were doing their surfing from home during the summer. So, despite being around for over a decade, online publishers continue to have issues reporting consistent, accurate measures of their online audiences. Depending on who you ask, the number of pageviews for a site from one source may be double the number reported from another. To make things more confusing, earlier this year, Nielsen/NetRatings announced that it would no longer use pageviews as the standard unit of measure, opting rather for time spent on a website. As the amount of money spent on online advertising approaches $20 billion this year, this measurement issue is starting to become significant. However, this complaint about online advertising is ironic, since measurement in the other mediums is, at best, a crap shoot. Perhaps the problem with online advertising is that it, in fact, has too many numbers -- with television, print and radio, audience numbers are typically estimates. So, while those numbers may not be accurate, at least they're consistent.
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