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Date sent:        Mon, 07 Jul 1997 02:44:05 +0000
From:             Russell Brown 
Send reply to:    russell_brown@idg.co.nz
Organization:     IDG Communications
To:               avror@7am.com
Subject:          Visits and Audits

Why, you demand, should anybody believe us when I write a little story about access figures for @IDG so far this year? I would have thought the reason would be obvious.

That is, for the same reason that people believe the other stories which appear daily on the site - we are professional journalists and we do not knowingly mislead our readers. Arron Patterson on our IS team generated the report and I asked for a copy because I thought it made a good news story. I do hope you're not suggesting either of us would fabricate the numbers.

I suppose we should be flattered that our figures are good enough that you'd imply that we'd cooked them. Anyway, I believed you when you used to brag about "clickthroughs processed" and I believe NBR when they announce another million hits. The crux is, as you say, what the numbers mean.

I explained in the second paragraph of last week's story exactly the meaning of a "visit", as defined by the Interste analysis software we use in-house. It's a less inelegant synonym for "user session" - a series of consecutive requests which the software logs as completed if there are no requests for 30 minutes. In the absence of compulsory user registration or cookies, it's the best figure we'll get and, graphically displayed, tells us quite a lot.

Why don't we follow Xtra and buy an audit? Xtra's audit project was good for the whole Internet publishing industry here, and I gave it extensive coverage on our site. But it was a business decision made by Xtra's management, and it was aimed at leveraging the subscriber traffic which comes through the Xtra site - and, in particular, presenting it in a way which would appeal to large agencies.

IDG pays for audits of its print titles because the market demands it and because it is a good business decision to do so. IDG also commissions extra research on those titles, for internal use. But the print market is orders of magnitude larger and more diverse than the Internet publishing market and the business decisions reflect that.

Furthermore, print circulation auditing standards have been known and agreed for many years. Such is not the case, as you acknowledge yourself, for the Internet. The standard just announced by the IFABC may be the benchmark everyone has been waiting for, but until then, you may, however much it hurts, have to believe us.


Russell Brown >>> russell_brown@idg.co.nz
News Editor @IDG >>> http://www.idg.co.nz/

Editor's Note:
In the article to which Russell replies, it was not my intent to suggest that IDG, or anyone else, had "cooked the books". My objective was simply to query why Xtra had been the only Web site to take the bold step of having their site independently audited - particularly in light of the fact that print-media publishers are quite used to submitting to audits for their dead-tree editions.

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