I started working with the comScore (NASDAQ:SCOR) team in 1999 when my prior firm, Flatiron Partners, provided first round capital to the founders. I served on the board for nine years and dropped off last summer with a lot of mixed emotions.
I've always been fascinated by the Internet measurement business and comScore is the recognized leader in that business. With agencies, marketers, wall street, and a host of other important constituencies, comScore is the "gold standard."
But I've also been very frustrated that comScore's panel centric approach (2mm Internet users worldwide) doesn't measure small early stage web services very well. It's only once a service gets a significant audience that a panel based approach can really work.
I've also spent countless hours explaining why panel-based numbers don't match server logs. Many people think server logs can't be wrong. But they can because one person can access a web service from their home computer, work computer, mobile phone, and friend's laptop in one single day and be counted as four unique visitors. Server side numbers are also impacted by cookie deletion, which is common among the most sophisticated (and most active) web users.
So the panel based approach has issues and so does the server based approach. The simplistic way I've always looked at it is panel undercounts and server-side overcounts. I've always advocated a "triangulation" approach to get to the right number.
So it's very big news that comScore has spent the past year building an entirely new approach to Internet audience measurement that combines its "gold standard" panel with server-side numbers reported by web services who install comScore's beacon. The comScore press release that explains how Media Metrix 360 works is here.
If you have a smallish web service but still need comScore numbers to sell advertising or raise capital or for some other reason, you can now put the comScore beacon on your pages and get reported right along with everyone else. This is also hugely important for "apps" that run on top of web platforms like Facebook. Our portfolio company Zynga, for example, has a huge number of montly unique visitors but the Internet audience measurement services have not been able to see most of them. If Zynga puts the comScore beacon on their pages, they would be reported alongside all of the web-based gaming services.
The other big innovation with Media Metrix 360 is the "universe" report which does the following:
A newly developed “universe report” will provide visibility into the entire universe of Internet usage, including access from mobile devices and computers outside of home and work (i.e. Internet cafes, schools, libraries, and other non-private locations). Usage from these locations accounts for a significant percentage of total traffic, ranging from 10 percent to more than 50 percent, depending on the market. The “universe report” will supplement the traditional home and work universe measured by the existing Media Metrix service with server side data to account for a site’s complete addressable audience.
I think this is a very big deal, for comScore, its customers, and web services of all shapes and sizes that want to be counted correctly. I'm thrilled to see this happen.