Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Price You Pay When Your Data is Questioned

I read this article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that I found interesting and relevant to DIG. There is always a debate on the value of having “one version of the truth” and the necessity of accuracy in corporate data. To date, that hasn’t been the case with certain types of performance measurement, especially website visits. Well, comScore is paying the price through shareholder value and their stock price. The issue stems from the accuracy of “clickstream” data that comScore, like their competitor Nielson, collect and track the popularity of websites on the web. Google announced that advertising clicks grew by 20%, while comScore reported only a 1.8% growth. Well, who is right?

This data is critical for marketers when deciding where to spend their ad dollars. You should read the full article to gain a full appreciation of the entire story, but here are a few snippets that are relevant to the importance of having “one version of the truth”.

Sarah Fay, chief executive of both Carat and Isobar US, ad companies owned by Aegis group said “We have not expected the numbers to be 100%”. It’s good to see that no expectations were being set out of the gates. Not sure this would fly when discussing something like revenue for an organization.

The article goes on to point out that comScore and Nielson data doesn’t always match up. “To complicate matters, disparities between comScore and Nielson data are common, as the two companies use different methodologies to measure their audience panels.” This isn’t something we don’t here inside the four walls of a corporation for something like a measures calculation rule.

Brad Bortner, an analyst with Forrester Research points out “There is no truth on the Internet, but you have two companies vying to say they are the truth of the Internet, and they disagree.”

And finally, my favorite quote in the article came from Sean Muzzy, senior partner and media director at digital ad agency http://www.ogilvy.com/neo/. “We are not going to look at comScore to determine the effectiveness of Google. We are going to look at our own campaign-performance measures”. This would be the equivalent of “if you don’t like the results, try a different measure.”

I have always wavered on the need for accurate data for certain types of measurement, especially something like clickstream analysis. I guess that wavering has now fallen to the side of the camp with the other types of data that require precision and accuracy.

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