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Comscore, Calacanis, Quantcast etc.

January 24, 2010

vcmike

Unless you’ve been asleep or unconscious the last few days, you no doubt have been following the brouhaha kicked off by Jason Calacanis’s angry rant against Comscore and its business practices. The Silicon Alley Insider joined the fray with a post entitled “Comscore’s Bogus Logic For Its Blackmail Fee: We Don’t Make That Much Money” (guess which side they came out on?), as did  TechCrunch, GigaOm, Comscore investor Fred Wilson in a comment, Scott Rafer, and many others.

I am somewhat reluctant to enter this fray. As the saying goes, “when skunks get in a pissing match everyone comes out stinking.”  But, stink or not, I have some thoughts to share.

First, a disclosure: Polaris is a large investor in Quantcast, so I most assuredly DO have a dog in this fight. That said, the Quantcast folks know way more than me about this and don’t need me to promote their case. So I won’t.  And, for that matter, Quantcast’s fortunes really don’t depend on beating Comscore, since their business doesn’t require making money from audience measurement. But, I do have a couple things to add to the debate.

First, regarding Calacanis’s basic point, that Comscore grossly understates the audience metrics for non-customers while offering more accurate reporting for sites who pay them: I am not a web publisher, so have no first-hand knowledge.  But, Polaris does have a substantial number of portoflio companies who have experienced this  squeeze directly, much to their dismay and frustration. In fact, our portfolio companies’ strong  resentment over having to pay Comscore to get favorable audience metrics was one of the reasons we were attracted to Quantcast in the first place.  ‘Nuff said on that.

Second, Quantcast CEO Konrad Feldman has proposed what seems to me a pretty simple way for us all to get to the underlying merits of the debate. Rather than mudslinging, how about looking at the data? Specifically, why don’t Comscore and Quantcast publish an IAB compliant traffic report for every media property they cover that shows overall audience; detection of double tagged content; the amount of traffic that can be attributed to robots or are the result of auto-refresh. Then allow any publisher who chooses to make this data publicly available so everyone can take a look.

Call me crazy, but it seems to me the online advertising business as a whole would be well served to get the facts  out and let everyone draw their own conclusion.

14 Comments

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  1. January 24, 2010

    At the least, I think Comscore should stop publishing unverified and INACCURATE results.

    Either don’t publish anything OR publish the right numbers. I don’t think anyone would call it extortion if they simply did not publish anything until you paid.

    What Comscore is doing is akin to an ad agency running negative campaigns against a brand…until that brand signs up with them.

  2. January 25, 2010

    Quantcast could also accept some part of server logs from publishers and use those for stats. There are issues with falsifying information but all this beacon/widget/panel talk feels so old school. Solving the problem of working with server logs is a much more relevant and interesting issue than increasing accuracy a few percent here and there.

  3. January 25, 2010

    Great post. I would love to have standards not shakedown in metrics. The problem is that the web is not optimized to reward quality publishers.

    Fact is current advertising rewards volume and what I call “train wreck” journalism. Look no further then the wasted energy on a post about what someone overheard from someone who overheard someone who overheard someone close to Steve Jobs that the Tablet is the most important thing he ever done. Spewing volume oriented posts are rewarded – not quality.

    I’m all for quality accurate measurement that values online media.

    I’ll stand up with anyone promoting the agenda of quality. accuracy, and relevance.

  4. Jordan #
    January 25, 2010

    As a publisher of original and user-generated content and one reliant on selling advertising to the big media agencies, we find that the price Comscore asks in return for including our numbers in the structure we want them (and perhaps closer to the actual levels) is SMALL compared to the value we extract from having the agencies’ business. As long as all the major media agencies use Comscore data as part of their buying decisions, any publisher wishing to sell to them will keep paying Comscore their fees.

    For us, and companies like us, it’s as simple as that.

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  1. Online Marketing Management Strategy
  2. About 14 posts on the Comscore “black mail” program–any missing? « The Jason Calacanis Weblog
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