Updated: Digital Execs Say Metrics Are in ‘Crisis’

NEW YORK The most measurable medium’s metrics are a major mess.

So says a group of digital media executives who participated in a measurement-themed panel session today at the Interactive Media Conference hosted by Editor & Publisher and Mediaweek in New Orleans.

Jason Kint, svp, general manager, CBSSports.com, was particularly frank when asked about the state of online measurement. He said the industry “has gone backwards in the past five years. There is a real crisis in metrics right now.”

A major source of the crisis is the proliferation of newer research sources: In attempting to improve metrics, they have actually made things more confusing, Kint said. For example, he mentioned the increasingly common practice of buyers and sellers combining panel-based figures from companies such as Nielsen and comScore with data from analytics companies like Compete and Google. Doing so can lead to inaccurate comparisons and conclusions. “It gets pretty crazy,” he said.

Another problem apparently stems from the Web’s inherent measurability, with too many publishers fixated on driving up the metrics that advertisers care about — such as page views — without considering their sites’ user experience, said Christy Tanner, editor in chief and vp, marketing, TV Guide. “If everything you do is based on [driving] advertiser metrics, you’re gonna lose your users,” she said.

CBSSports.com has tried to steer the conversation away from page views and click-throughs toward time spent and user engagement — areas where it excels. However, it has found old habits hard to break. “A lot of the younger media buyers are looking at page views and CPMs and click-through rates,” said Kint. “That’s what they are negotiating on.”

In fact, page views have become “irrelevant,” he said, citing an example of a bracket tool that CBSSports.com launched earlier this year during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The tool proved popular among users, but because of the way it was designed. Since its content loaded on the site dynamically, it actually drove page views down for that time period.

Video is in an even more challenged position, since standards are lacking for even the most basic measures, including what constitutes a true “view.”  Thus, the fast-growing sector is subject to “bogus numbers,” offered Kint.

Online video syndication—an increasingly popular strategy for content creators–is particularly difficult to track, said Tanner. “We are not there yet with a really simple solution to track content on third parties,” she said. “What we really need is one analytics tool that tracks on-site traffic as well as the variety of syndicated products that we distribute, including video, widgets and other syndicated products.”

Yet another measurement challenge identified during Wednesday’s panel was clients’ increased desire for more custom ad packages. Those often require conducting proprietary research in order for sites to prove their value. And even then, not everything that is new and different can easily be benchmarked.

Tanner cited the example of some TV advertisers looking to track chatter about particular shows — chatter that happens either off TV Guide’s site or on social platforms like Twitter. Often, “these are things you can’t measure or that may end up looking bad,” she said.

Source: Mediaweek.com

Related: “Quantcast Heats Up Video Metrics Space”