WebSideStory Gains Acceptance by ABC Interactive

In a development that lends legitimacy to browser-based methods of tracking Web site traffic, auditing company ABC Interactive has teamed with a provider of such a measurement system, WebSideStory, saying it would audit the data gathered by the company.

Third-party auditing — an important process in an industry in which traffic numbers so often differ — has so far relied on examining server-side log files. WebSideStory, by contrast, asks publishers to install a small file on each page they want measured, and the company then tracks each time that the code is loaded.

“It is especially cost and time effective for larger clients with multiple servers supporting their Web sites,” said Michael Christian, senior vice president for WebSideStory. “It eliminates the need to install software at each server as is required with log-based auditing. The browser data is comparable to log file information in quality and reliability, perhaps even better, because [the system] collects Web site activity directly from the browser, not from the publisher’s network.”

But ABCi competitor BPA International questions whether the alliance is simply aimed at making up for deficiencies in ABCi’s methods of measurement. “Nobody wants foreign software on their servers,” said Gil Aguiles, communications manager for BPAI, pointing out that his company’s methods don’t require that software installation. “We’ve always been very unobtrusive when we collect data from our clients.”

Whatever the reason, the partnership between ABCi and WebSideStory gives Web publishers an alternative to turning over their log files to auditors, which some may prefer because of the possible time savings. It’s a development that some think will increase the occurrence of audits.

“This is an important step toward making Web site auditing a universal practice,” said Jim Spaeth, president of the Advertising Research Foundation, the leading research industry organization since 1936. “When auditing can be this simple and affordable we can expect many more Web sites to comply with the industry’s call for third-party audits. Advertisers should have verified traffic numbers.”

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