ComScore to Measure Beyond Two Million Person Panel

Audience measurement service adds publisher server data; change aimed at addressing advertisers' concerns that publisher, comScore numbers failed to match up.

In the world of online audience measurement there is a camp that favors panel-based measurement and a camp that favors data collected from a Web site’s server. ComScore, which has long been in the panel-based measurement business, placed a stake in the middle with a new offering.

The new service called Media Metrix 360, will be implemented in the U.S. and Canada in July and the first data will become available in August. Under the service, comScore will maintain a panel of over two million users worldwide, but add Web site server metrics. The addition of the data, which will come from the publisher’s servers, will allow comScore to account for 100 percent of a Web site’s audience, according to a statement from comScore.

Typically, advertisers and publishers have disputed Web site audience numbers. Publishers have contended the actual size of their audiences are higher than reported by comScore because comScore reports on its panel traffic and does not account for Internet users outside the comScore panel. Additionally, advertisers have questioned discrepancies between the publisher-reported numbers and the comScore reported numbers, which often differ wildly. The difference in the reported numbers can often make it challenging for publishers to sell ad inventory, particularly at the fees they are demanding.

In order for comScore to track server-side data, publishers will be required to place a beacon, which is a line of embedded code similar to a tracking pixel. ComScore said it is working with Akamai so that it can handle a large volume of beacon requests, even up to billions of requests, if necessary, according to comScore CMO Linda Abraham.

If a Web site chooses not to deploy beacons, it will simply get panel readings.

According to Abraham, one issue with panel-based data is an inability to capture the Web site usage of people who do not participate in the panel. That includes people who share computers in cybercafes or work at companies that do not permit Internet users to participate in panels.

Concerns over the accuracy of Web measurement agencies, including comScore and Nielsen Online, have been a long-time industry issue that received heightened attention two years ago.

While Abraham said comScore worked with the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Media Research Center to develop Media Metrix 360 and other initiatives in audience measurement, she said the offering is a result of the Web’s evolution. “The genesis of it had to do with the increased fragmentation of the Web, things like video, niche Web sites, cookie deletion,” she said. As a result, she said, it became necessary to refine the audience measurement service.

With the advanced reporting, comScore will also open its audience to a so-called universe report. This report includes Internet usage for mobile devices and computers outside of the home including workplaces, cafes, schools, libraries, and other public locations. ComScore reports that as much as 10 to 50 percent of traffic has been unaccounted for, depending on the market and country.

ComScore will begin tracking the U.K. in August and publish data in September, and then introduce additional countries in Q4.

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