Publishers Optimistic About Mobile Measurement

This is the final editorial installment of a series looking at how publishers are organizing themselves to thrive in the post-desktop era. 

According to a report from Cisco, by the end of this year, there will be more mobile devices on the planet than people, and global mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold by 2017. Mobile has truly taken off, and its growth is only picking up speed. Yet mobile measurement is still lagging way behind.

While publishers and agencies alike are frustrated that mobile measurement hasn’t been standardized, they are optimistic about the industry coming together around a single mobile measurement currency. But as of now, it’s mostly talk.

Sean O’Neal, global CMO at Mail Online, thinks that part of the issue is how mobile is viewed. According to O’Neal, it is imperative that mobile be viewed as just a device and not a channel.

“Mobile shouldn’t be a standalone item — when laptops were first introduced there wasn’t a report for desktop traffic and laptop traffic,” said O’Neal. “It’s online traffic, it’s digital media. We’ve got to, as an industry, start looking at it holistically. We need one set of numbers and one set of standards that we can all trade on.”

As O’Neal sees it, it’s up to agencies and media buyers to lead the move towards unification and standardization when it comes to mobile measurement, but agencies, which just don’t have enough information when it comes to mobile to answer all of their clients’ questions, see it as publishers needing to agree on a common currency.

“It’ going to be hard to continue to rationalize the increases in spending on mobile without better tracking and ROI information,” said Ryan Griffin, svp of media at Digitas. “The publishers and media owners have to be incentivized to have their platforms to work together or move to a new platform that is shared, and the only way to do that is with money, because right now they aren’t wanting to give in to that kind of consolidation. They want to own the data and keep things on their platforms and better monetize.”

Comscore’s multiplatform measurement tool, which has recently come out of beta, has become one of the major options when it comes to mobile measurement. The way Comscore’s multiplatform tool works is similar to its other measurement products. As Andrew Lipsman, vp of industry analysis at Comscore explained it, the basic concept behind it is panel-based measurement that is supplemented with census-level data from publishers. Comscore also provides reporting of mobile app usage versus mobile Web consumption with unduplicated audience view numbers between the two. The tool also shows audience measurement across desktop and mobile without duplicate viewers. But as is often the case with Comscore numbers, publishers have their gripes.

“Comscore’s default is a PC view of the world,” said Scot Cherkin, evp of product and business development at Complex Media. “But it’s multiplatform tool is an important step.” Cherkin echoed O’Neal’s sentiment about having to view audiences holistically.

Lipsman thinks it’s just a matter of education and time.

“There are a lot of things that happen with the emergence of a new medium that are chicken-and-egg scenarios,” said Lipsman. “People won’t invest more until there are better metrics, and those things don’t happen until there is more money in it — these things don’t happen over night, but the change in usage patterns with mobile has picked up, and there is more urgency around it.”

The importance of mobile is undeniable at this point. According to Cherkin, Complex’s audience numbers for desktop are now almost equal to its mobile numbers. And unless publishers and agencies act on this sense of urgency, they will be missing out on all of the opportunities that mobile offers marketers as they seek to reach the right audiences, at the right times, in the right places.

“You can’t wait for tracking to be perfect,” said O’Neal. “Work with publishers who have sophisticated mobile ad solutions, and the industry is working toward better tracking. In the meantime, don’t miss these important times of day with mobile.”

Image via Shutterstock

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