Scintillating TheWrap Stats Also Remind: comScore Counts It Differently

On January 26, TheWrap will celebrate its fifth anniversary. And when staff gather at the outlet’s west Los Angeles offices for that purpose, there will be extra cause for whooping and hollering.

TheWrapLogoLast month, guided in large part by the astute Web traffic wisdom and knowledge of executive editor Joseph Kapsch, TheWrap lapped rivals Deadline and Variety by a very impressive comScore margin. TheWrap welcomed a little over 3.4 million unique visitors (its highest monthly total yet), compared to around 2.6 million for Variety and Deadline.

There is, per usual and as mentioned in TheWrap item, a wide discrepancy between comScore’s December 2013 numbers and those tabulated by Google Analytics and Quantcast. Which begs the answer to the question – how can the latter two services measure so many more unique visitors for TheWrap (around seven million)?

It’s complicated, but worth briefly explaining. comScore remains the gold standard of independent, authoritative Web traffic measurement because it does a couple of things differently.

One: it tracks the same user on different devices and, for the month, does its absolute best not to count the different devices as being equivalent to separate, unique visitors. Two: even more importantly, as opposed to Quantcast especially, it keeps an eagle eye on cookie activity and again, works hard to make sure that multiple, different monthly cookies for the same user are added up as such.*

Meaning for example that someone who clears out their cookies on a regular basis through software like Norton Anti-Virus is counted multiple times as a unique visitor by Google and Quantcast, but only once by comScore. It’s been estimated by some third-party surveys that as many as one-in-three Web users regularly clear out their Web browser cookies.

Still, this is a huge achievement by the gang at TheWrap. Made all the more impressive by the fact that the site no longer receives the occasional assist from The Drudge Report, as opposed to THR, Variety and Deadline.

FishbowlNY uses and regularly consults Google Analytics. So we’re very familiar with how that tool is a little more forgiving with regards to unique visitor footprints.  The congratulatory comments are starting to roll in at TheWrap end, deservedly so.

Update (1:20 p.m.):
The above-mentioned comScore numbers are for desktop-based unique visitors only. They do not include mobile traffic.

*Correction (4:00 p.m.):
The information about Quantcast not tracking multiple-cookie-use by the same user is incorrect. FishbowlNY apologizes for the mistatement.

Quantcast totals for December, as mentioned in TheWrap piece, represent (per a company rep) domestic PLUS international and mobile. Hence, the discrepancy with comScore’s domestic December totals. From the Quantcast spokesperson:

“The methodology our company uses to de-duplicates multiple cookies to individual people is detailed here.”

(Also, while Google Analytics does not filter out cookie duplication, it does of course cover the full, global spectrum of users. That would in their case account for some of the discrepancy with comScore and is something that we should have also made clear in the item.)

Update (January 24):
Via internal THR memo, GM Dan Strauss informed that the trade registered 13.267 million comScore unique visitors in December 2013, topping the publication’s previous monthly uniques record of 12.327 million (August 2013):

U.S. de-duplicated multi-platform: 10.701M
Non-U.S. desktop: 2.566M