 ABA Web Audit members approve digital audit standards

First ABA Digital Watchdog Committee meeting raises the bar on web measurement reporting

The ABA’s Digital Watchdog Committee, formed following the launch of the ABA Web Audit Service in July, held its inaugural meeting on September 30, 2009. The committee members debated the standards by which online publishers are audited, and how web audience data is reported, and has subsequently released new measurement Rules and Guidelines.

The Committee has representation from a cross-section of large, niche, specialty and B2B publishers, and from the MFA’s Digital Sub-Committee and other leading agencies. They have established a framework for the ABA web audit to test publishers’ measurement process for compliance to the audit rules which bring into focus; measurement and reporting practices relating to rich media; non-user requested content such as auto-refresh; and double counting issues.

The rules and guidelines will cover the application of the Nielsen measurement technology by audited publishers as well as rules relating to the reporting of audited data. ABA audited data will only report user-requested and user-focused data and will exclude automatic content such as auto-refresh pages, pop-ups, pop-unders, interstitials and auto-play rich-media. In addition the rules define what constitutes a new page. The new rules directly address a number of industry concerns and set the standard for best-practice, delivering greater transparency and accountability for advertisers and media buyers.

Kerry Field, MFA Digital Sub-Committee Chair and Partner, Innovation, Mindshare welcomed the delivery of rules and guidelines that set the benchmark for the reporting of audited web audience data. “The ABA’s role as independent monitor and auditor of online media will give media buyers greater visibility, confidence and understanding of traffic fluctuations and other anomalies.

There are a number of ways that measurement data using the tagging methodology can be manipulated. The release of these rules and guidelines and the audits conducted by the ABA ensures publishers data collection procedure are compliant and reported on a consistent basis – an important achievement for the online medium.”

Gordon Towell, ABA CEO commented “The ABA Web Audit Service is the result of industry collaboration and consensus that will set a new standard for media reporting. It is also recognition of the need to deliver the same certainty for online that the ABC and CAB audits have provided in print for more than 77 years.”

Troy Martin, Commercial Director for CBS Interactive comments “CBS Interactive is a proud supporter of the ABA Web Audit Service. As online continues to grow its share of marketing spend, it is essential that the industry self-regulates and commits to the transparency of audit. We welcome the enhanced level of scrutiny in the market and the added trust it delivers to buyers and marketers.“

Neil Ackland, Managing Director, Sound Alliance comments “Now that it is mandatory for sites to cease counting auto-refresh to comply with the ABA Web Audit, this should hopefully eradicate the practice once and for all.  Auto-refresh gives some publishers an unfair advantage because it artificially inflates traffic figures which in turn influences ad-spend. The new standards will ensure all audited websites are on an even playing field.”

About the ABA, ABC and CAB – Founding Member of the IFABC

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), founded in 1932 and Circulations Audit Board (CAB) founded in 1957 are non-profit industry organisations governed by tripartite groups of Publishers, Advertisers and Advertising Agency members created to ensure independent verification of media. ABC’s primary audit services verifies paid circulation while CAB provides audit services for the print media, exhibitions and many other forms of media advertising.  The Audit Bureaux of Australia (ABA) provides Web Audit Services for niche online publishers. For more information, please visit www.auditbureau.org.au.