After almost two years of consultation and development, Nielsen has launched its new online audience measurement solution, Nielsen Online Ratings, which measures people rather than computers and claims to paint a more accurate picture of the whole online consumer and digital universe. But while the new system has already been endorsed as the official measurement currency by the Australian IAB, that's not the case in New Zealand.
The new programme, which has already been launched in Australia, US, UK and Spain, utilises hybrid audience measurement methodology that combines data from a new 3,000 strong online panel weighted to match the New Zealand internet population, along with page tagging data from Nielsen’s Market Intelligence service to report key insights on site metrics, demographics, reach and frequency. Nielsen's Consumer and Media Insights data is also being used (if your mind explodes whenever the words research and methodology are combined, download Nielsen's FAQ pdf here).
As an example of what was wrong with the previous measurement system, Tony Boyte, Nielsen's associate director of research, media, says it recorded 16 million unique browsers in New Zealand last month on the 232 websites it tracks (Market Intelligence is a subscriber service, and one of the major changes to this new programme is the fact that it now includes all sites that reach an audience threshold, which means the number of sites being followed increased to around 1200 in May).
By creating a simple people metric that takes into account the different devices now being used (this proliferation has led to a rather delicious sounding "super cookie generator"), it now allows fair cross-media comparisons with television, radio, newspapers and magazines. And this, says Boyte, helps optimise online media buying, selling and planning.
Online measurement is a fairly controversial topic, as evidenced by some of the debates on StopPress, and there are plenty of opinions on the best way to do it. But Boyet says Nielsen has worked very closely with the industry, publishers and the IAB to develop the new currency over the past 18 months to two years.
"I wouldn't want to jump the gun and say this is the industry standard, but we're very, very confident with the standard," he says, adding that it has been received well in the overseas markets where it has been launched. "... But it's fairly new for the industry. And I guess that's why there's been such a long process of consultation."
Media owners don't generally like it when their audience numbers go down. And he says a number of the publishers are "going to have to get used to saying a lesser number", but he says it's largely being seen as a positive, because that number is more accurate and, because universal sites like YouTube, Google and Facebook are now included, it gives a better view of the whole digital eco-system. And at a time when clients and agencies are increasingly demanding more transparency, that has to be a good thing.
Boyte says the Australian IAB officially endorsed the currency for two years when it was launched around one year ago, but that's not the case in New Zealand. When asked why, he says there are "a number of reasons" and suggested we talk to the IAB.
Liz Fraser, speaking as the head of the IAB, says it's fully supporting the system but decided not to follow Australia's lead.
"The IAB has not officially endorsed any online measurement system in New Zealand. Instead, we see our role to educate the market, including agencies and advertisers, on the pros and cons of each and every research methodology available to us. For many months now, the IAB have been working with Nielsen to understand the methodology and ensure the system is robust. It’s exciting to have Nielsen launch their Online Ratings product and is a great step forward for online measurement in New Zealand."
She admits the system "is far superior" to other offerings, so, given that attitude, when asked if it was a cop-out not to do so—or whether many different measurements simply confused the market—she says each system is a business that has its own strengths and weaknesses and the IAB wouldn't be doing its job if it didn't understand them all (some agencies only use ComScore, for example, and Effective Measure is thinking about launching here soon). Added to that, two years is a long time in digital, she says, so there's a good chance something better could come along.
But speaking with her general manager of MSN New Zealand hat on, she says the new Nielsen Online Ratings approach "paints a more accurate picture of the number of people visiting all types of digital content".
"Nielsen Online Ratings establishes measures that can be directly compared to other media, allowing advertisers to make a more strategic assessment of media placement. This is a tremendous win for the entire industry."
Figures from the new service reveal that in May 2012 there were 3.3 million New Zealanders (aged 2+) actively online, averaging 51 sessions and spending a total 39 hours per month.
Google tops website rankings in New Zealand with a unique audience of nearly three million in May. Facebook follows Google with 2.7 million, while YouTube, TradeMe and Yahoo! had a unique audience of 2.1 million, 1.9 million and 1.8 million respectively.
Unique Audience (000)
Population (all people 2+) Reach
New Zealand Government