Three more digital publishers sign up for audit as anti auto-refresh pressure grows

A series of online publishers have added their weight to demands to restrict the use of auto-refresh to artificially boost page impressions, and signed up to have their sites audited.

And in an announcement today, the Audit Bureaux of Australia said that Austereo, Allure Media and Independent Digital Media are among the latest to sign up for ABA audits which demands that publisher-generated traffic – where a page automatically refreshes and a new ad is served too – are not included in the numbers.  

The ABA warned:

“Publisher-generated traffic refers to any web traffic that is not generated by actual people visiting a website, such as when a publisher sets a web page to automatically reload every few minutes. This automated traffic does not represent activity from real people and therefore can severely inflate audience figures and waste advertiser’s money on unseen ads. Web pages can automatically refresh for hours or even days if a web browser is left open in the background.

Austereo – which owns the Today and Triple M radio networks – has been one of the media owners to previously make wide use of auto-refresh. But Adam Furness, Austereo’s interactive sales director, said “Austereo is proud to provide our advertisers with the highest standard of figures possible and to prove that our measurement practises are trustworthy. As the online industry continues to grow it’s the responsibility of publishers to ensure that the metrics are at a standard comparable to other audited media.”

And Allure Media, which runs the Australian versions of Gizmodo, Defamer and Lifehacker amongst others, has also signed up for the ABA audit. MD Chris Janz said:

“Despite being the most measurable medium, some web publishers have, for too long, engaged in tricks that artificially inflate audience numbers, causing mistrust in online figures. The ABA audit provides much-needed transparency and ensures publishers compete on a level playing field. We’re proud to have earned our ABA green tick and know advertisers can now have absolute confidence in our audience numbers.”

Independent Digital Media, publisher of The Knot, Primped and Homehound among others, has also signed up. GM James Hannan said: “Being ABA-audited allows advertisers and agencies to engage with us and be certain that the numbers we present to them are in fact accurate and reliable. We want relationships built on trust and integrity, and we feel this is one step towards developing that. I am personally very supportive of the ABA and would love to see an industry move towards media buying based on ‘ABA green ticks’. I truly believe advertisers will see better results from those who pass the audit and in turn offer them the most transparency.”

Paul Elliott, OMD’s Head of Digital said “We’re glad to see more publishers embracing the audit process and becoming rules-compliant. OMD fully support the efforts of the ABA in the drive to provide agencies with numbers we can trust. We’re beginning to implement policies to give preferential consideration to those publishers who provide complete transparency, so we encourage all publishers to be audited by the ABA.”

And WPP’s Group M waded into the debate in the Sydney Morning Herald today, saying that its agencies will take “a preferential approach” to audited sites.

According to the ABA:

“ABA case studies have shown that a website’s Page Impression metrics can double and Average Session Duration more than quadruple if publisher-generated traffic such as auto-refreshing pages is allowed to be counted towards their figures. Publishers use these figures as key measures of user engagement so it’s a serious problem if publishers bypass the audit process and gain an unfair competitive advantage by reporting inflated figures.

“The ABA audit process not only checks for the inclusion of auto-refreshing traffic, there are many other hidden measurement issues which lead to the use of inaccurate figures in the market. Other issues include inconsistent measurement of online video, audio players, image galleries and incorrect classification of sites. Missing tracking tags from pages and other technical errors typically lead to website traffic being undercounted.”

ABA audit director Paul Dovas said: “Accurate measurement goes beyond the use of tracking tags; it requires independent third-party scrutiny to ensure that the tags are implemented correctly and consistently in accordance with industry agreed rules and guidelines.”

Earlier this week Mumbrella revealed an initiative which may see publishers who use auto-refresh demonstrate more transparency.

Within the marketing trade press, Mumbrella, Campaign Brief and Best Ads on TV are audited. B&T and AdNews are not.


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