Monday, May 17, 2010

The Response Meter

The State Of The Audit

As publishing and media companies continue to shift their focus from print to online, they are also trying to find new and innovative ways to get their brands noticed. Audit companies like ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) and BPA Worldwide are also trying to find new techniques to keep themselves relevant in this ever-changing landscape. With the focus now on a company’s brand rather than their magazine(s), I dare to ask what auditing firms need to do to make sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

When print advertising was king, the audit statement was a vital tool to measure the quality of a publication’s audience. Parts of the audit statement such as Paragraph 3a (Business/Occupation Breakout of Qualified Circulation) and Paragraph 3b (Qualification Source Breakout of Qualified Circulation) were especially important for advertisers. It allowed them to see the ages and sources of a magazine’s circulation and determine whether or not they wanted to spend money. Now with the shift to online, the name of the game is quantity and the different ways publishing and media companies are getting their brand’s products out to their target audiences.

While many media and publishing companies employ a variety of web tracking and analytic tools to track traffic and gather demographic information about their digital magazines, websites, online products, enewsletters, the social media sites that they are a part of, webinars, etc., there is still the problem of how to report and measure all the information based on all the different tracking tools out there. Audit companies need to be at the forefront to set and determine these guidelines.

This leads into another sticky topic for both business publishers and audit firms…integration. While there are still some publishing companies that rely on the print product and the traditional audit statement to entice advertisers to spend money with them, most companies are working on ways of integrating and reporting their data across a variety of products. Part of the problem is that this data comes from a variety of sources.

From an audit standpoint questions abound not only about the validity of the information, but how to list and report this data in order to sway advertisers to advertise or continue to advertise. It’s not enough to just show the number of visitors, page views, hits and unique visitors. Advertisers want and need to know as much demographic information about the people visiting these sites as possible.

The companies that can find a way to present this information in one dashboard will definitely have a leg up on their competition. The way that the information is ultimately stored and presented could also pave the way for a uniform integrated audit statement.

In the meanwhile, audit bureaus need to continue to work diligently with their clients to come up with these solutions as well as create new audit rules and guidelines in this new and integrated world order. With the economy still struggling to right itself, failure to do so could result in the few audit firms out there going the way of the do-do.

- Hamilton Maher

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