Competing for Your Audience Measurement Business

You can often gauge the worth and potential of a product by its number of competitors. Audience measurement services are no exception. In addition to major players comScore Media Metrix, Nielsen//NetRatings, and maverick (to borrow the term from Sarah Palin) competitor Quantcast, others have emerged with metrics offerings of their own.

Among them is Effective Measure, an Australian site measurement solution set to launch in the Middle East in February thanks to a partnership with market research firm Real-Opinions. Effective Measure is backed by several ex-Nielsen Online and RedSheriff (the audience measurement and analytics firm acquired by AC Nielsen back in 2004) executives. It promises “unprecedented accuracy in Web site visitor measurement, profiling and better understanding of the user experience.”

Effective Measure is similar to Quantcast in that it combines demographic information with direct-from-site data. Instead of coming from a panel, however, Effective Measure’s user information comes from an online survey. Here’s how it works: when a user visits a participating site, she’s delivered a cookie and, if it’s the first such site she has visited, asked to complete a detailed survey about herself, her lifestyle, her purchasing decisions, and so on. She’s observed as she visits other participating Effective Measure sites, and her behavior is combined with her demographic information to create a profile that’s accessible to media planners and buyers.

“Effective Measure evolved because of the shortcomings of these other methods in the market which have been like the proverbial elephant in the room for quite a few years now,” says Dan Healy, CEO of Real-Opinions. It’s worth noting that Effective Measure also addresses the issue of cookie deletion, using a “Digital Helix” technology that’s said to reduce the overestimation of unique visitors.

Closer to home, companies like Mountain View, CA-based Crowd Science take a cue from services like Google Analytics and offer the ability to report on site audiences, their demographic profiles, and their attitudes toward a number of issues that are of interest to advertisers. It’s valuable to know about services like this one, as you might be offered data generated through its use by your sales reps.

Launched in beta in June 2008, Crowd Science also asks Internet users to complete surveys and polls that are linked to participating Web sites’ content pages. Publishers are asked to tag their pages, and the data collected is delivered through an online reporting tool that publishers can filter, organize, and share as they see fit. Their data — and select portions thereof — can also be easily arranged in media kit form for ad sales purposes. Though not directly employed by planners and buyers, Crowd Science harvests information that can be valuable when passed along from publisher to client in relation to a potential campaign.

Then there’s Compete.com, a free third-party audience measurement service that, like comScore and NNR, uses panel data — along with toolbar installs and numbers from ISPs — to create user profiles heavy on online behavior. Compete’s angle is that its data can be used by publishers to learn more about their competition (i.e. “competitive metrics”). Beside the fact that it was created by the founder of once popular search engine GoTo, Compete is interesting because of its additional products like Search Analytics Select, which measures a variety of data across major search engines and merges it into “workbooks” that marketers can use to better engage key customer segments.

Many more such services are out there, and many more will emerge. Variety, and an insatiable desire to improve on existing products, will ensure that planners and buyers will always have fresh user data — and the opportunity to use it to enhance our campaigns.

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