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Monday, 26 March 2007

The measuring debate: share your thoughts

Last week Alain Heureux posted an item where he asked what will be the media currency of the future. The debate on how to measure advertising and customer interactions is not new. And it is not obvious. Although advertisers and media companies need objective data to calculate their ROI and compare the effectiveness of media, the simple fact of comparing media is in a way a contradiction in terms. Comparing media by reducing them to absolute data regarding reach is somewhat reducing the media themselves. Worse, even: it is getting harder and harder to compare two INTERACTIVE media. How can you compare, for instance, the impact of a user-generated community where visitors post their home-made movies to the impact of, let’s say, a portal or an online news medium? Comparing quantitative visitor data is one thing but how about qualitative visitor data? Not the plain and simple reach of a medium but the expression of what visitors of that medium do (compared to our targets)? The question is more actual than ever, given the explosion of online communities that invite their visitors to participate and co-create, rather than to simply ‘consume’.

The discussion on how to measure media happens in the online space too. Parameters such as visitors, pageviews and numbers of subscribers are not enough anymore. Think about the discussions about the number of Second Life subscribers: how many of these accounts are used how often and for how long? And is it really that what matters?

Recently comScore announced it adopted a few new metrics that focus more on what people do on online media. Amongst others, comScore, introduced a metric measuring the number of visits per visitor per day, thus trying to measure visitor loyalty.

Maybe part of the answer lies in looking at what happens in the field of Web Analytics, solutions to measure what people do on our websites. In the beginning they were all about measuring absolute visitor data and visiting patterns. Today, Web Analytics vendors focus on KPI’s, Key Performance Indicators, that are unique to every company since they do not measure online media but business criteria. And then the question becomes: what are the KPI’s for advertisers? And is the industry able to shift from a media perspective to a business and user perspective?

There’s a lot to be said about these issues. I will come back to them in later posts. In the mean time, please share your thoughts…

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