The Battle of the Numbers

By February 26, 2007

“YouTube is currently serving 100 million videos per day, with more than 65,000 videos being uploaded daily. According to Hitwise, YouTube videos account for 60 percent of all videos watched online and people are spending an average of 17 minutes per session on the site. According to Nielsen NetRatings, YouTube has nearly 20 millions unique users per month.” These are the latest traffic and stats figures, a combination of in-house and third-party data, currently displayed on the video-sharing site. They look impressive on the face of it. The only problem is that YouTube won’t reveal how it keeps track of video views and that companies compiling online metrics often invoke “proprietary technology”. Digg, another community site, has been the subject of some controversy about its popularity as measured by the number of users.

While Digg claims 20 million users, more conservative estimates only tally 1,3 million users. Here is how Jay Adelson, Digg’s CEO, accounts for the discrepancy. “Digg and the rest of the industry are working to help outside organizations get more accurate data. Those who quote comScore figures do not include international numbers, nor do they include RSS feeds or API-based access. Companies like HitWise include less than 10% of their sampling from business-based users, yet the majority of our traffic is during the work day. We are working to resolve these sampling issues with the various metrics companies as well.”

Moving beyond page views

Page views, defined as the request to load a single page on a Web site, have been the staple of online metrics for a decade and the driving force behind CPMs (cost per thousand) as the industry standard for selling advertising on the Web. But new technologies such Ajax and Flash have rendered this method obsolete and many in the industry are predicting its demise.

One of those tolling the bell is Peter Daboll, chief of insights at Yahoo and previously CEO of comScore Media Metrix. “The bottom line is that the page view has outgrown its usefulness. We’re working closely with the measurement firms and our internal analytics teams to ensure we’re creating the most accurate representation of user activity on our sites. Nobody has all the answers, so we need everyone pushing,” he wrote on his blog.

In that spirit, comScore, one of the leaders in online measurement along with HitWise and Nielsen NetRatings, just announced it will work with blog network Federated Media to provide better blog metrics. In an interview with Zdnet, Chas Edwards, publisher of Federated Media, discussed the partnership. “Even the best methodologies in place today — techniques pioneered by comScore — struggle with accurate measurement of vertical-content sites, mid- and small-sized sites, and sites that more engaged audiences who participate in the content creation like blogs and social-media sites. comScore and FM have teamed up to build a methodology that will do a better job following audiences as they spend more time in a more fragmented, more participatory media landscape,” he said.

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