A few weeks ago the topic of this newsletter was "You Guys Should Talk." The theme of this week's column is "Us Girls Are Talking." David Smith made a public call for the Web Analytics Association and the Internet Advertising Bureau to get together and discuss and collaborate on metric standards. There is no action item here -- but merely a need for a little PR to let the online measurement community know that the groups are indeed communicating with each other. Before one assumes that there is or could be full integration between the two groups, one needs to understand each group's purpose and missions.
The WAA Standards Committee's focus on standards does differ slightly from the IAB's, but there is room for collaboration. The WAA is focused on ensuring that the name and definition of each metric is standardized across vendors. We allow for flexibility in what is included or excluded in the definition, as all Web sites are not the same. An html page on one Web site may be considered a page view, while filtered explicitly and not counted on another site. The goal of the Web analyst is to analyze a site -- the WAA standards are a guideline for assisting the analyst in the terminology that is used across vendors and the practice of Web analytics.
The IAB is focused on defining metrics in a manner that facilitates the transparent conduct of buying and selling advertising. As advertisers are paying for impressions,
click-throughs and view-throughs, the standards that this body sets must have a technical definition -- and must be rigorous enough to be audited by a credible third party.
In the WAA's discussions with the IAB regarding standards setting, we noticed several differences between the two bodies. The most notable ones are as follows:
1. The IAB has a full-time paid staff. The WAA is almost 100% volunteer.
2. The IAB is comprised almost entirely of sellers of online advertising and companies that support the sale of interactive advertising inventory. The WAA is almost 100% individual-membership-driven -- and therefore volunteer-driven in its efforts to research the space and set standards.
3. The IAB is comprised of members who encourage mediation of counting methodologies to ensure fairness and compliance. The WAA is comprised of practitioners who are seeking standards within the industry so that consistent business analysis can take place.
In an ideal world, the two bodies would work together to drive standards that overlap (such as click-throughs), but due to the composition of the bodies and their missions, this is not quite feasible.
What we can do (and are doing) is to communicate with each other and work through any fundamental discrepancies between mutual standards. The WAA's goal is to set standards that are consistent but allow flexibility for the Web analyst to operate within. The IAB's goal is to ensure that advertisers get what they pay for. These groups represent a different set of constituents within a common space. There is room for each body, but we agree that we must communicate with each other due to the issues that were addressed in the previous column. The message here is that there is an ongoing relationship and we are working together.
Will the two bodies ever be combined? I highly doubt it. But with
continual collaboration to improve the communication of standards to the constituents, the standards needed for each community to operate and flourish will continue to progress.