Can You Really Trust the Numbers that Digital Publishers Report?

 In Audience Measurement

Our customers often ask us about the unique daily or monthly users of the various contending digital platforms. They want to know: How quickly is Twitter growing? How many people does Facebook reach globally? How much advertising spend should I invest in Google’s advertising products, and what is Google’s net reach across all devices, apps and sites?

This, of course, gives rise to questions about accountability when it comes to user numbers. As long as the digital publishers themselves report numbers, they have the liberty and control to decide which metrics to report. But which are the right metrics? Should those numbers be based on:

  • Monthly unique active users (and, if so, what’s the best way to define “active user”)?
  • Unique devices they see in their server data?
  • Registered users? Users who have logged in at least once?
  • Visitors? Users who land on the site every month (sometimes randomly) even though they show very little activity?

There is simply an endless array of different metrics from which to choose.

Obviously, the self-interest of the publisher plays a big role in how they choose to report their user numbers – they’re always going to prefer metrics that make the company look popular and profitable. And they’re probably going to choose metrics that are easiest to capture; certain metrics have traditionally been too complicated or difficult to validate (that’s particularly true when it comes to engagement generated by mobile devices).

This creates uncertainty on the part of those who are using those numbers to make strategic decisions about advertising or marketing campaigns. Not only is it difficult to take these numbers at face value, but it’s also nearly impossible to compare apples to apples when it comes to user numbers because every publisher is using different metrics.

These are the exact challenges that Verto Analytics’ audience measurement products, specifically Verto Content Watch and Verto App Watch, are designed to address.  Just as Nielsen is known for measuring the number of people watching a particular television show, we measure and validate digital users. And we do so based on objective, single-source, cross-device audience measurement methodology which measures what consumers do in apps and on devices. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we do with our patented methodology:

  • First, we build statistical panels to track each consumer across all of his/her devices, and quantify all usage that takes place in the apps the user is currently using.
  • We are then able to measure the net reach of various publishers across what we like to call the “cross-device digital landscape”: from smartphones to e-book readers,  from tablets to computers.
  • We track usage on streaming media, device features, mobile and PC apps and websites in a comparable and objective manner.
  • We report on daily, weekly and monthly unique users, returning users and churn/retention; and we define activity levels from different points of view.
  • We apply these metrics in a unified way across all the properties that we rank. We identify and measure apps, site visitation, games and streaming services, and build similar metrics out of all these entities, in a comparable way across all device types (from computers to smartphones and e-book readers).

Advertisers and brands use our data to not only determine how publishers stack up individually, but they also know how those publishers rank against their competitors. With these insights, advertisers and brands can look to the places where it makes sense to expand their reach.

We can also quantify simultaneous usage across devices and better understand how people interact given the fact that they’re using multiple devices. We quantify what people do within websites or apps and what actions or content drive people’s path-to-purchase.  We analyze the impact of demographics, device types, time of day, or weekday to underscore what drives conversions and what does not.

At Verto, we go beyond accountability and provide transparency, truth and useful insights that serve the industry and publishers alike. Interested in learning more about how we measure? Contact us, and we’ll be happy to walk you through more of our research.

Sign up for our newsletter: