Audit boss: Publishers won’t web audit because they’ve too much to lose giving up autorefresh

The outgoing boss of Australia’s audit body says that major online publishers have been resisting getting their web traffic audited because they do not want to give up auto refreshing pages.

Gordon Towell, CEO of the Audit Bureaux of Australia, was asked about autorefresh on this week’s edition of the Mumbrellacast. Towell, whose last day with the ABA is today, said:

“There has been resistance. I think it’s the major factor. I have no doubt about it. The problem is that for years, people have counted their page impressions in a certain way. The advertisers pay against the numbers. If we switched off autorefresh overnight it could have a profound impact on traffic.”

Although the issue of autorefresh has gradually moved up the agenda, the Interactive Advertising Bureau – which represents Australia’s major publishers – is yet to take any definitive action on autorefresh. Most recently the IAB put in a proposal to traffic tracking company Nielsen to offer an indication of autorefreshed numbers in its data.

Those who defend autorefresh argue that in some cases – such as a frequently updated news home page, autorefresh is justifiable. However, critics claim that where a page is open in the background on a browser, advertisers are being rorted because they not only pay for each ad impression but they also have to cover the costs of ad serving. They also point out that if the true purpose of autorefresh was to deliver new content to readers, there is no technical need to also serve a new ad each time.

The ABA’s web audit standards do not allow autorefreshed page impressions to be served.

(You can hear the full Mumbrellacast conversation with Gordon Towell here)

Meanwhile, The ABA’s online watchdog Alexx Cass has joined the debate over Mumbrella’s complaints that AdNews has been misleading the market in its own unaudited claims about its web traffic.

Cass wrote on Mumbrella this morning:

“Great to see a real change in the sentiment towards auditing (at least among Mumbrella readers). A year ago, ‘web’ and ‘audit’ were never used in the same sentence, but now the call for audited figures pops up more and more. But still a long way to go before it’s standard…”


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