Measurement companies get with the times

“If media is only becoming more distributed, then it requires an equally distributed solution for measuring its influence.”

2017 will be the year measurement companies get with the times and focus their roadmaps on working with publishers, platforms, and advertisers to create more comprehensive measurement solutions that reflect the state of modern media.

jonathan-huntAt Vox Media, we build brands, not websites. That’s not to say we don’t build them — we do — rather, the website is not the sun of our solar system. This isn’t something that’s new or unique to us; this is what many modern media companies and advertisers consider the new world order.

If you look back even a few years, the model was very different:

  1. As a media company, you had a site.
  2. You published something to said site.
  3. You pushed a link to that something across other platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.
  4. Those platforms got a lot of cool content to serve their own audience.
  5. In return, they sent us some of that audience. In some cases, it was fleeting, but it allowed us to create scale.
  6. And also inventory! In fact, we both got inventory and were able to make money from it.

But that model is deteriorating. The things we create are now being discovered and viewed and monetized on other platforms as well, sometimes without that audience transaction.

It’s not the platforms’ fault, though some would like to argue it is — it’s mostly the result of human behavior. When people love something enough — a public figure, a loved one, a media outlet — they’ll follow them anywhere. In modern media, that increasingly means not to a website.

So why then are we still handcuffed to third-party measurement solutions that don’t reflect this?

Over the last few months, some smart media people such as Jonah Peretti and Julie Hansen have publicly asked or addressed variations of this same question.

Why?

The digital advertising climate has been evolving into one that prioritizes quality and context over cheap scale; one that values media brands with influence, that are trusted and publishing content of a particular caliber — and are using both to reach big valuable audiences. In most cases, these are media companies that reach far beyond their own sites. This is what Julie refers to in her post as “distributed reach,” but what we’re really talking about here is “distributed influence.”

For example, in October, comScore reported Vox Media as reaching our highest month for U.S. traffic, placing us above BuzzFeed and most of our competitive set. Great news, you might say. That is until you consider our actual U.S. unique visitors, per Google Analytics, was 70 percent larger; international traffic was another 53 million uniques across desktop and mobile; factor in unique monthly reach across Facebook video, Google AMP, Twitter, YouTube, and newsletters and now you’re at a number that is meteorically larger, sure, but more importantly one that better represents the range of our audience and the gravity of our influence.

If media is only becoming more distributed, then it requires an equally distributed solution for measuring its influence. But I’m inexplicably optimistic. For the measurement companies, this is a big opportunity to be innovators and thought leaders and to work toward a more transparent platform for media brands and advertisers alike.

Jonathan Hunt is vice president for international at Vox Media.

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