Anyone who has had close involvement with a website that gets significant traffic probably knows two universal truths – first, analytical data and business intelligence about the usage of your website is worth its weight in gold; second, said data is a huge bitch to get to.
Since I’m lucky enough to be the primary PM involved around http://www.righthealth.com, a top 5-6 online health destination, I’ve learned both of these truths along the way.
It was really interesting, then, to run into this NYTimes article that documents the simple yet troubling issue around the most basic web analytics construct – the number of visitors coming to a particular site. Site logs and the metrics systems that run atop them usually report numbers that are wildly out of line with what ComScore, Compete, QuantCast and Hitwise have to report (I don’t include Alexa in this list because it doesn’t explicitly show # of uniques AFAIK). This mondo discrepancy, of course, is being blamed for advertisers’ continued reluctance to moving more dollars online.
The essential problem with ComScore and Hitwise is that those guys dont have a goddamn clue about the real number of visits; they are effectively guesstimating that number from panel-based data as well as from data purchased from ISPs.
Well, enter Quantcast. I’ve been a fan of these guys for a really long time but have only recently been able to recognize their potential.
Below is a screenshot of Quantcast’s report for RightHealth. The charts are pretty and all that but suffice it to say that the data isn’t quite right and doesn’t line up with what we know. But wait! Since these guys can actually embed themselves into your site with a little piece of JS, they effectively become the middleman, the OEM stats provider between you and an advertiser wanting to blow some cash.
Now, here are some interesting questions that I haven’t gotten a handle on yet:
- Why won’t Compete do the same damn thing and take away this advantage from Quantcast? Seems like a no-brainer, no? I won’t speak to whose algorithms or technology is better since I simply don’t know.
- I’ve seen comScore reports; while they have some data that QuantCast doesn’t yet provide, QC is fairly advanced in what analysis they provide. Is QC a disruption to comScore and Nielsen’s business?
- What about Google Analytics? GA provides brain-dead integration for small and large publishers and a pretty cool (albeit slow as a dog) GUI for analyzing the mountain of data that any large site collects. Why doesn’t Google turn this pretty cool product into QuantCast and allow publishers to “share” whatever data they choose with advertisers? Is it because there are too many hooks in GA that a publisher can exploit to make the data look richer than it actually is?