January 24, 2010
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.