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Experts call for credible audience measurement system for the Internet

Experts call for credible audience measurement system for the Internet

Author | Robin Thomas | Thursday, Dec 11,2008 7:11 AM

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Experts call for credible audience measurement system for the Internet

While television has TAM (Television Audience Measurement) and Radio has RAM (Radio Audience Measurement), the Indian Internet industry, which is a mere 2 per cent of the total advertising pie but growing at a steady pace, lacks a credible audience measurement system, which many feel is the need of the hour. Advertisers and media planners, too, can no longer afford to ignore this medium.

exchange4media spoke to some of the leading Internet players in India as well as media planners to find out more on the requirements of a credible audience measurement for the Internet space in the country.

Mixed feelings

According to Subho Ray, President, IAMAI, “There is no lack of credibility, and brands like comScore, Alexa, ViziSense, etc. are all credible brands. comScore has been in use in India for sometime now and there is a growing acceptance. However, it would be useful to have some local companies with direct local knowledge to start a credible audience measurement system. The other critical factor along with credibility is the cost. It is hoped that the Indian companies getting into this space will bring cost competitiveness.”

Gulshan Verma, Director - Sales Strategy, Yahoo! India, noted, “Measurement of audience is an extremely important part on any medium as part of the media planning process. While measurement systems like comScore have been invaluable in promoting the media, there are several improvements that need to be made.”

Pushkar Sane, Chief Digital Officer, North & South Asia, Starcom MediaVest Group, said, “Yes, the Indian Internet industry does require a credible measurement system. I also think we will not make significant progress unless we have active involvement from the advertisers. We are still trying to fit digital into current approaches to audience measurement rather than looking at a fresh approach.”

On a different take, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, CEO, Naukri.com, maintained, “The measurement systems that we have are far more superior to television or even radio. However, I believe that the more measurement systems we have, the better it is. But then, there are enough of them. What we need now is pay-for-performance, which I see as the way forward.”

Gourav Rakshit, Head - Online Marketing and Corporate Communications, People Group, observed, “In order for media planners to consider the Internet medium in the same breath as conventional media like TV and print, the industry definitely needs a credible audience measurement system. While systems like comScore and Alexa do provide some visibility into online user behaviour, they are so riddled with sampling errors that they can only be used for identifying trends and are not reliable for absolute ‘usership’ numbers. What the industry sorely lacks is a standard, reference-able measurement system, which provides advertisers with a single view of the truth.”

Bruno R Goveas, Head - Marketing and Product Management, Akamai, said, “Up until this point, audience measurement systems were relevant, but, now as web development is taking place rapidly and the advertising world is also developing rapidly, the kind of measurement systems we have needs to change. It was only last year onwards that the advertisers and media planners have realised the online potential, why even the politicians could not ignore this medium.”

Amar Goel, Founder and CEO, Komli Media, added here, “Internet audience measurement systems are very useful for advertising agencies, marketers and even media planners. It helps marketers and advertisers garner confidence that they have invested in the right medium and would get good returns. It helps publishers accurately detect their audiences and whether they are targeting the right set of audience hence helping the publication increase their revenues.”

Rishi Khiani, COO, Web18, too, agreed that the Indian Internet industry needed a credible measurement system. He added, “The Internet is a much more measurable medium than television, hence it becomes important for the industry to have a neutral reporting platform. With multiple measurement systems, there is bound to be variations, however, they are narrow differences. In fact, it would only add layers of understanding and not confusion. For instance, comScore ratings on In.com ranked 12th, ViziSense placed us at No 9, and Alexa at No. 14. I believe a credible measurement system should be a comprehensive one and should be transparent in its methodology.”

Variations in measurements lead to confusion?

Vamsi Vanka, National Director, MEC Interaction, observed, “Traditionally, the problem with the Indian market has been the widely varying estimates of the market size. For instance, IAMAI studies put the market size at 60 million users, while IRS still estimates the Internet market at 20 million users or thereabouts.”

He further said, “If you look at the ViziSense, comScore and Google Ad Planner estimates, they are not too far off from each other. Since all these studies have different data sources, there is bound to be a certain amount of difference in their findings. Some of the websites may differ in their ranking, but overall the top 10-20 properties would be more or less the same.”

According to Pushkar Sane, “The industry needs to evolve a common measurement standard and it needs to be adopted by all major advertisers, agencies and media owners. There always be some exceptions and counterpoint of views, but we can’t have new measurement systems every 6-12 months. It will not help in making digital scalable.”

Subho Ray was of the opinion that, “There is no confusion as long as the agencies, advertisers and publishers are aware which one reflects what. For us, it is going to be useful since the common direction shown by these multiple measurement systems would be a good guide to take decisions.”

According to Gulshan Verma, “There is definitely a growing attraction to the Internet from advertisers. The Internet is becoming an important medium to disseminate and consume information. It is better to have more options of measurements than having none. We feel they will all try to improve in their breadth and depth of their coverage. The most important message is that information needs to be unbiased while providing it to an advertiser or media planner.”

Gourav Rakshit added here, “I think it is the extent of deviation, which is the greatest cause for concern. Typically, these large variations are a result of completely different sampling and extrapolation philosophies, which preclude consistency of any kind. Having a bunch of numbers floating around allows publishers to project numbers that are most favourable, and creates a general sense of distrust in the mind of the advertiser. And so the advertiser reverts to thinking about the Internet as a measurable lead-generation medium, and ignores metrics around the true reach delivered.”

The requirements

Vamsi Vanka explaind, “There are various sets of data requirements that digital marketers have when they evaluate new media plans and some of them, I believe, are media market information – penetration of new media, related industry statistics, and broadband connectivity, ISP services, PC penetration, cable Internet services, mobile Internet. Media planning support tools – consumer profiles and their new media usage, major activities on each digital medium, major media options and campaign metrics- consumer profiles and their new media usage, major activities on each digital medium and major media options.”

He further explained, “The first set of data is easily obtained from various industry sources like Nasscom, IAMAI, OEM manufacturers, ISP data, etc. Media planning and related data is obtained through a variety of tools like IRS (Indian Readership Survey), TGI (Target Group Index) – which are accessed and used extensively by mainstream media agencies like GroupM. Campaign Metrics are an output of ad-serving and tracking technologies, which all interactive agencies and publishers use to generate reports and knowledge about their own plans or media properties.”

Bruno R Goveas noted, “A credible measurement system should have a transparent measurement methodology, it should be accurate and should certainly give confidence to the publishers, advertisers, marketers and media planners that their investments are safe and that they are targeting the right audience.”

Though the industry felt a strong need for a credible measurement system, however, it is the transparency in the methodology that is most important. Some even believe that the lack of a credible measurement has prevented the advertiser from exploring this medium. That advertisers and media planners have responded slowly, particularly because of low penetration of the medium, is also a concern.

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