Web Measurement: Models and Metrics

SYDNEY — Web audience measurement is in a state akin to purgatory when it comes to an accepted wisdom of measurement of the web’s use. Those posing the question; ‘who is looking at what, and where?’, have attached a ‘can this be trusted?’ caveat to their requests.

Yet never before has a media presented its operators with such an array of choices for determining rates of usage and traffic, with advertisers, their clients, site publishers and users able to share in a relatively transparent and universally accepted set of metrics for measurement.

Yet in many senses, this has led to a difficult and problematic situation, where the plethora of choices has resulted in as many opinions about what is a definitive measurement.

Brian Milnes is a web measurement expert, and is managing director of AC Neilsen’s eRatings, and a veteran of the media business, having worked for AGB McNair and News Ltd NZ. A believer that the user-moderated media model has the strongest potential to succeed, he chats here with Miguel D’Souza.

MD: With respect to internet audience measurement, how critical is it to the future of online media?

BM: It’s critical in terms of elevating the Internet from one of the bunch and positioning it alongside the major mainstream media, and by that I am talking about print television and radio. All of those media have accepted methodologies and reporting systems, the industry, whether they are buyer, seller or decision maker is comfortable with that style of reporting. One of the problems with the Internet, I think at the moment is that nobody is comfortable because of different methodologies. I think the industry has to embrace some sort of standards to be able to position the Internet alongside other media. It is critical for growing it as a new media to be part of the bunch?

MD: Is the media still the killer app? Or is this evolving out as a trend? Is online media still important?

BM: Following email, news and information and the use of search engines is very high on the list of usage areas. The major sites around the world are the big news and information portals are coming through first, in country after country. News, information and entertainment is very much underpinning the growth and development of the internet.

MD: Since the advent of the internet, the notion of information media has also fragmented and diversified to a degree. What do you think this means for the future of online media?

BM: Everybody’s talking about convergence and most of the comment that I see about convergence focuses on convergence of hardware, the cellphone and the PDA, the personal computer and the refrigerator or the microwave. What I don’t think people are talking about, and they should be, is convergence of content. We’ve grown up with models: this is print material, radio material, or television material. Convergence of content means that all that material can be delivered in one package via the Internet. Web site publishers are going to have to focus much more on stepping outside their traditional sphere of operations and concentrate on converging content and becoming all things in one site.

MD: Do you think that traditional media outlets are responding to this trend of convergence of information?

BM: Very slowly, it seems to me that many newspaper sites are still thinking in terms of a newspaper model in putting their sites together, I think the broadcasters have been forced to adapt more to think in terms of delivering text and visual images, but it’s slow, really slow.

MD: What is the future for paid for content?

BM: Yes, but it’s going to be micro-transactions, I was interested to see that in Italy, terra lycos have announced that they’re going to convert from an all free to an all paid subscription model, and they’re pretty bullish about it. I think it’s part of the process of evolution and I think somebody will find the model that will allow them to recoup the investment that have been made. It’ll be linked again to the development of electronic wallets, mobile phones or something that will allow us to access that little bit more news, or that little bit more depth for a relatively small amount of money.

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