Publishing Bits

Online publishers need reliable counting and auditing services. The Online Publishers Association recently looked at the methods and results (but not costs) of five competing services. Which is best? Of course that is the publisher’s choice but the report makesthe field easier to compare.

The OPA press release points to the full report (18 pages in PDF form). It’s not a difficult read. What you’ll see is that the biggest difference is one of method. Some tracking services meter the usage of participants who agree to have tracking systems installed on their computers. Others services rely on surveys (phone or mail or online) that depend on recollections.

The metered survey would appear more accurate. But since corporations rarely allow trackers to be installed on their systems, such systems may miss or poorly estimate the browsing people do on the job. The report outlines the methods of five leading services: panel researchers comScore Media Metric and Nielsen//NetRatings-MegaView Local; and survey researchers Nielsen//NetRatings @Plan (online), Scarborough Research (phone and mail), and The Media Audit (phone). The two- page chart at the end of the PDF allows the comparisons.

Speaking of OPA studies, last week I wrote about the group’s paid content report. Music downloads drove the results, but in scanning the report once more over the weekend I noted some encouraging data on the overall rise of content purchasing. While the data do not suggest any groundswell of consumer interest in paying for content, there is a small but growing base of folks who will pay. Specifically:

— about 11 percent of the universe of online users in the United States (171 million) paid for content;
— the fraction of users who paid for content, while obviously still a minority, grew faster than the overall U.S. Internet population, meaning that paying may ever so slowly reach a higher penetration;
— a chart on Page 12 shows the breakdown between monthly & annual subscriptions, by content type; another chart on Page 14 shows signal purchase activity by the amount of purchase.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media