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Advertising Rights Digest - Arm yourself with knowledge

Published on 12 May 2011


Online Measurement vs ABC vs SAARF
By Willem Krog
26 May 2010

Nielsen
Nielsen

SAARF
SAARF

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As online media progresses as a media alternative, the question is how will advertisers compare apples with apples - instead of the current situation where apples are compared with pears - to ultimately decide which media to use and most importantly how much to spend on online versus other media.

The other media (excluding outdoor) are measured by two independent authorities, namely ABC for the circulation figures and SAARF for the readership/viewership/listenership figures. Advertisers use both the circulation figures and the readership figures as the currency for advertising decisions.

Currently the Online Publishers Association (OPA) uses a self regulating system implemented and managed by Nielsen. Online media first used page views as the currency, but as it can be manipulated by programming, there was a gradual changeover to unique visitors. Nielsen wants to research a better profile of the audience and is busy implementing their system. Advertising models that uses CPM (cost per thousand) or CPC (cost per click) were fast becoming the fashion, but these methods are slowly changing to a flat rate scenario.

What are the comparable currencies then and what should they cost? One would assume that the comparison should be Nielsen's unique visitors and SAARF's AIR/TAMS/RAMS figures. But this is also not comparing apples with apples.

The online measurement of unique visitors is real in the sense that all visitors are recorded. AIR/TAMS/RAMS are modulated sample reports measured against an estimated total population audience. Unfortunately, there is no other more accurate method. If the advertising costs per thousand audience is then applied it will come close to a realistic comparison. The other benefits of online media are ignored for purposes of this exercise.

There are, however, hundreds of print publications not included in the SAARF system and their only currency are their ABC figures with most of them free to the public. There is no correlation between ABC figures and any online measurement, so the comparison is futile. It is here where the advertiser becomes stuck.

Opportunity to view is an established concept and where ABC figures and online page views have something in common. In these scenarios the online publication should out perform its hard copy counterpart as the page views (opportunity to view) are indeed measureable but the conversion of an ABC circulation figure to an opportunity to view requires more postulation than science. The costs per thousand model will also be applicable here.

The prediction is therefore that media that does not have SAARF measurements but only ABC will find it harder to compete with online counterparts.

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