Who needs Nielsen?

In my essay The Transparency Marketplace, I touched on new measurement metrics that are coming that will help web distributors and advertisers better understand and do business on the web. This is a subject that always opens eyes in discussions with broadcasters, because our world is so dominated by the methods of Nielsen.

I point out that Technorati can measure influence through links. Google page rankings are their measurement of “importance” of pages (and will one day be on a much larger scale than today’s one through ten ranking). Alexa measures traffic, and while their methodology is evolving, we cannot dismiss the ability of advertisers to use an independent third-party tool. One day, all three of these could be used to set advertising rates.

Now comes Quantcast, a beta application that looks very promising to me. Here’s what they say about themselves:

Quantcast is a team of web analytics experts building powerful statistical technology to understand internet audiences. Quantcast helps web publishers of all sizes understand the composition of their audiences and attract higher advertising rates, and helps advertisers and agencies find elusive online audiences wherever they might be. This web site allows anyone to view audience reports on hundreds of thousands of websites.

…We’re good but not yet perfect. While we see a huge amount of internet traffic every day, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the entire internet. Fortunately, we know enough about the transactions we see and the US Internet as a whole (thanks in part to the US Census Bureau) to use a range of mathematical techniques to adjust our observations to provide you with best estimates for the whole internet. The confidence meter displayed with the data gives you a good idea how accurate we believe our estimates to be.

What’s important for all traditional media companies to understand about this is that these new systems aren’t going to the incumbency and asking permission. This means, gasp, it’s outside our control.

Moreover, we have no choice but to play by their rules, and isn’t this what really galls the mainstream? Quantcast is going to provide statistics for your site to advertisers, whether you like it or not, and if you want those statistics to be reliable, then you’re going to have to insert their little pixel into the code on your pages (become a “Quantified Publisher”).

This is an important part of the Media 2.0 disruption that needs more attention than its getting, because these are the kinds of tools that will fuel the internet advertising economy downstream.

(Thanks to Steve Rubel for the tip.)

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