Eyeballs or Click-thrus: it’s all relative.

So I got  into this media debate about the way online publishers charge for their ad space. I was way out of my depth. But I tried. Here’s what I said:

Boy, it’s all a bit complicated. Coming from the creative department, I only really get simple stuff. So in the spirit of simple (on the understanding that I have  little understanding, and I’m opinionating wildly) here’s what I reckon.

If we go back to why we’re counting stuff, it’s all about getting the right message to the right person for the best value. And with that in mind, surely it’s less about accuracy and more about relativity.

At the end of the day we’re judging cost vs numbers. So if the numbers are consistent across all publishers, it’s much easier to make a call on the best place to be.

Take a look at radio. Everyone knows that the way they count “earballs” is deeply flawed. But it’s a consistent way to count. So you always know (within reason) that one station is better value for money than that another. Sort of.

The challenge (as someone said above) is when a publisher tickles the publishing to make the numbers better (like the way radio stations only really self-promote during survey season). But once again, if we assume everyone does it, then everything’s relative and the answer is relatively useful (pun intended).

I also think there are different types of ads (eg. direct response and brand) so it’s handy to have different metrics based on desired outcome (eg. CTR vs BDX). But in the spirit of the debate I tend to side with the cynics who feel that the Herald’s recount of numbers sounds like it’s more about them losing market share than us getting better value.

As a non-advertising example of the same thing, my Dad is a scientist who counts greenhouse gas emissions. It’s all pretty random and difficult to count. So he has a look at specific indicators and then does some educated guesswork and a bit of maths.. but it’s never going to be 100% accurate. But if the goal is to show year on year improvement (or otherwise) accuracy is less important than relativity. in other words, as long as you count the stuff in the same way every time, you get a pretty good idea where you stand.

So that’s what I reckon. What do you think?

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