Nielsen to reissue news rankings after mistake sees Ninemsn fall to third
Media measurement company Nielsen has been forced into a embarrassing recalculation of its news website rankings, after it accidentally excluded a key Ninemsn subsite from its February online ratings.
The error, contained in the ratings provided to publishers earlier this week, saw Ninemsn drop from its long-held position at the top of the news ranking to third position behind smh.com.au and news.com.au.
“The issue is that within the Ninemsn news channel, in the current events and global news category, one of the sites – finance.ninemsn.com.au –was incorrectly excluded. We identified this in an investigation yesterday and we will restate those numbers to include the incorrectly excluded domain,” said Matt Bruce, Nielsen’s managing director for media audience measurement.
“Within each channel there are a number of different URLs that roll up to the channel and when some changes were made to those channel definitions this one was incorrectly left out.”
Nielsen only became aware of the error after Ninemsn contacted them about the dramatic fall in its number of monthly unique browsers which saw them move from an audience of 2.942m last month to a third place 2.729m.
“There’s no question that digital news competition is fierce at the moment among Australia’s biggest sites, but we don’t think the February numbers are right,” ninemsn editor-in-chief’s Hal Crawford told Mumbrella.
“A key Ninemsn news site has slipped out of the ratings and we’re investigating with Nielsen how this has happened”.
Nielsen says it will have the reissued numbers to publishers and advertisers by the end of today.
“We are we will have them this afternoon,” said Bruce. “It has to go back through the (United) States cause there is a bit to it, but it will definitely change the rankings because Ninemsn is only 10,000 UA (unique audience) behind news.com.au.”
“The overall category is up from January and also up from a year ago. So I’m sure all the participants are pleased to see that.”
Despite the error, News Limited’s news.com.au has slowly edged up in both audience and ranking over 12 months from its previously held fourth position to increase its audience from just under 2.6m in January 2012 to 2.739m in February.
The editor of news.com.au Luke McIlveen said he was pleased with the growth. “This is a positive first step in a long campaign. We’re doing what our URL promises – breaking the news that matters to an online audience,” said McIlveen.
The online rankings are likely to get a further shakeup with Fairfax announcing earlier this week that they would move to a metered paywall by the middle of the year.
“From what I’ve seen of the Fairfax announcement they are talking about a metered model similar to the New York Times. I think they’ve chosen that model because it maintains the long tail traffic,” said Bruce.
Bruce also noted that The Australian newspaper had recently returned to the top 10 Australian news sites after its audience fell following the introduction a paywall in October 2011.
“The Australian similarly allows access (around the paywall) via Google because you are getting what is a significant source of traffic. It’s quite a smart business strategy.”
Nielsen has held the IAB contract as the official online audience metric since 2011.
Update: Nielsen has this afternoon told Mumbrella the correct audience number for Ninemsn is 2.756m placing them second in the top 10 Australian new websites.
“The point about SMH.com.au retaining the top spot is still correct. It just changes the rankings in relation to news.com.au,” said Matt Bruce.
“We’ve now implemented processes to make sure we check when definitions change and is signed off by the client to ensure this issue doesn’t come up again.”
Nielsen has also provided an updated table which shows SMH.com.au in the top spot with an audience of 2.848m.
After the revised numbers were issued Ninemsn’s editor-in-chief Hal Crawford told Mumbrella: “I’m not confident the numbers are right, even with this revision. We’re working with Nielsen but it looks as though the parts of our site that dropped out have not been fully accounted for.”