There is an increased amount of pressure being applied by the publishers of the major websites (most of them IAB members) to the web rating services, comScore and Nielsen NetRatings, regarding their visitor numbers as they compare to website log files. While it is great to air the problem, the industry sometimes does itself more damage than good through airing these issues through the press. A great example is the recent New York Times article "How Many Hits? Depends On Who's Counting." This shows how far this industry has yet to go in educating the people in the general press who are writing about our field.
In this case, the complaints are real enough as they involve big money. But they are misdirected. And they are incomplete.
The fact is, we have three methods of counting: audience measurement (NetRatings, comScore and the newer entry, Quantcast), web analytics (Omniture, WebTrends, etc.) and third-party ad servers or 3PAS (Atlas, DoubleClick and the many site-side servers).
Each of these three methods has its uses and limitations. Before I get to a potential solution, I'd like to outline the basis for each of the three, how they are best used and what their limitations are. I will provide some suggestions for industry solutions, which involves parties coming to the table to talk, not just airing their problems in a press that does not even understand the nomenclature being tossed around (for example, the use of the term "hits," which is not even an audience metric but sounds good on the evening news, so it persists).
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