The Guardian questions ‘inconsistencies’ in Nielsen audience numbers

guardian australia logoThe editor of The Guardian’s new Australian website has questioned the accuracy of audience measurement company Nielsen’s Online Ratings, after the June results reported that its Australian audience had fallen in its first full month of operation.

The Nielsen results, released last Friday, reported that The Guardian had an Australian audience in June of 1.02m, down from 1.09m in the previous month. However, launch editor Katharine Viner said the reported decline does not match with their internal traffic numbers.

“It’s interesting to see Nielsen reporting a small decline in our traffic when our internal metrics have seen a substantial increase over the past month,” Katharine Viner told Mumbrella.

“We’ve had a fantastic launch on Guardian Australia, with our traffic levels rising substantially over our first month.”

The Guardian is citing internal data across its websites, by the Adobe-owned Omniture, shows a seven per cent rise in the unique Australian audience between May and June this year, plus a substantial surge in comments on the site.

“Our internal Omniture traffic figures confirm that Guardian Australia’s page views in June 2013 were up 10 per cent month on month and 57 per cent year on year,” said Viner.

“Monthly unique browsers were up by seven per cent month on month, 55 per cent year on year, reaching well over three million.”

“We also saw 33,700 comments on the Guardian Australia site, a 51 per cent month on month increase, clearly demonstrating the appetite for our ground-breaking open journalism approach in Australia.”

Each month Nielsen issues its Online Ratings which measures the size of Australia’s online audiences and is endorsed by the industry body the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Matt Bruce, Nielsen’s managing director for media audience measurement, said that while Australian engagement on the Guardian’s site was up there data showed a drop in audience.

Nielsen’s hybrid data system involves both a consumer panel and tags on websites within the rankings.

“Online Ratings hybrid data shows increases in page views and sessions for the entire Guardian Media Group between May and June and a small decrease in unique audience.  This suggests the Guardian has an audience engaging in the site more in June versus May as they are visiting the site more often and looking at more pages,” said Bruce.

Bruce also argued Nielsen Online Ratings metric and Omniture’s measurement system are not be easily compared.

“Omniture and Nielsen Online Ratings are used for different purposes – internal analytics in the case of Omniture and Industry endorsed online audience measurement currency in the case of Nielsen Online Ratings,” he said.

“The services differ significantly in methodologies which leads to differences in metrics.”

“Key differences in methodology include, necessarily, different implementations of tags and tagged pages amongst different clients for Omniture, as it is an internal tool, versus Nielsen Online Ratings where tags are implemented consistently across the market.  Omniture may also rely on cookies for some metrics versus measuring people as is the case in Nielsen Online Ratings hybrid data.”

The Guardian’s concerns over their traffic numbers come only days after a number of publishers raised concerns about Nielsen’s reporting of News Corp Australia’s video traffic which surged between November and February before suddenly collapsing more 50 per cent last month, after the company instituted a metered paywall on many of its news websites.

Viner said the UK newspaper would be speaking to Nielsen about the methodology of Nielsen Online Ratings and watching for what it called “further inconsistencies”.

“We talk regularly to Nielsen about their methodology, and will be watching closely over the coming months for further inconsistencies,” said Viner.

Nic Christensen


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