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Are Web Ratings Dangerous To Sites?

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the a-million-different-ways-to-count dept.

Businesses 54

Freshly Exhumed writes "For website publishers, a poor web rating can be disastrous. Bad television ratings mean television shows get canceled, bad web ratings mean websites go out of business. For advertisers, accurate web ratings are critical to optimize spending. Inaccurate ratings data means advertisers will overspend on poorly performing sites or not advertise on smaller sites whose numbers are really much higher than reported. In the case of Canadian web site Digital Home, already hit with an advertising boycott by Bell Canada over the site's pro-consumer editorial content, the site's owner is now in danger of ending operations, apparently due to the inaccuracies of ComScore rankings. For example, Google Analytics reported Digital Home served up over 2.7 million page views in January to almost 250,000 unique visitors. A web buyer at one of Canada's largest advertising agencies confirmed that ComScore reported just 32,000 visitors. Added to this is ComScore's secretly-installed spyware troubles."

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ComScore hosers (-1, Offtopic)

NoGuffCheck (746638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879079)

Take off eh!

Slashdot summary's link is wrong. (4, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879545)

The page linked to in the Slashdot summary is an after-the-fact rehash of the initial advertising takedown announcement.

Here's the original: http://www.digitalhome.ca/content/view/1799/1/ [digitalhome.ca]

Friday, 13 April 2007

Bell Canada today - April 13th - pulled all of its advertising from Digital Home citing our refusal to take down an article which informed readers about a new generation of satellite receivers expected to arrive in July.

In the article , Digital Home stated that the information was from Bell ExpressVu dealers and that the company had yet to publicly announce the receiver specifications.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a press relations representative from Bell Canada and was informed that Bell Canada "might" pull its advertising from Digital Home Canada if the article was not removed from the Digital Home site.

The PR representative explained the request came from Pat Button, the Vice President of Marketing at ExpressVu. The representative said Mr. Button had seen the article and demanded it be taken down from the site because it was having a negative impact on dealer sales. The representative also said that it was impossible for Bell to be releasing new HD receivers this year because a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the receivers had not even been issued by ExpressVu.
Basically, ExpressVu wanted to keep a lid on the fact that all the MPEG-2 receivers that are being sold today will soon be totally obsolete because they're transitioning to MPEG-4. What a bunch of slimebags.

Ironically, it was on Friday the 13th, too.

Get what you pay for (2, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879667)

Mr. Button had seen the article and demanded it be taken down from the site because it was having a negative impact on dealer sales. ...ExpressVu wanted to keep a lid on the fact that all the MPEG-2 receivers that are being sold today will soon be totally obsolete because they're transitioning to MPEG-4.

We want free to view content, but we don't want it to be a tool of the company that pays for it via advertising.
Sorry folks, that's never gonna happen.

Wel... (2)

alexandreracine (859693) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879089)

For website publishers, a poor web rating can be disastrous.
Is Alexa still up?

Re:Wel... (1)

xanderwilson (662093) | more than 7 years ago | (#18882545)

Yes.

Web Ratings brought to you by Slashdot (4, Insightful)

xero314 (722674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879115)

I guess web ratings aren't so bad when all you need to do is bitch about it and then get free advertisement and additional page views by posting on Slashdot. After clicking on three Digital Home pages after following the links in the summary, I realized what a great tactic this really is.

Re:Web Ratings brought to you by Slashdot (1)

Belakiss (1046318) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879223)

A very good tatic indeed.
Too bad they don't get a penny for every click through this.

Re:Web Ratings brought to you by Slashdot (2, Insightful)

xero314 (722674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879249)

Too bad they don't get a penny for every click through this.
Depends on who you are referring to as "they." Digital Home certainly makes money from each time someone clicks on one of their links on slashdot. Not only does it increase there Web Rating but it also drives revenue from the advertisers on the pages you go to.

Re:Web Ratings brought to you by Slashdot (0, Offtopic)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879335)

I realized what a great tactic this really is.

I was left with the same bad taste in my mouth -- some half-stories that didn't even make a point with any punch, none of them actually correlating with the summary on Slashdot.

What the hell is the point of this Slashvertisement? I hope Taco got paid for this.

Re:Web Ratings brought to you by Slashdot (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | more than 7 years ago | (#18881177)

The issue is that there is a serious credibility gap in web analytics used by advertisers. That's a good issue for Slashdotters to be made aware of. It was better to bring attention to an unjust web site rating system that threatens the viability of a valuable consumer web site (as illustrated by the Bell Canada issue) than to sit idly by and watch it tank. This problematic issue affects the web at large, and knowledge of it is an important tool towards hopefully correcting it.

Re:Web Ratings brought to you by Slashdot (3, Funny)

hmallett (531047) | more than 7 years ago | (#18882085)

I think you're right - large amounts of traffic for little work, even if it isn't targeted. I'd never stoop to that level, especially not for my own site, Backup Exec FAQ [backupexecfaq.com] , a user-contributed support site for Symantec Backup Exec [symantec.com] . ;)

I can't think of anything better ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18879149)

For boosting site traffic than a good slashdotting ... assuming the server logs to substantiate it can be recovered after putting out the system fire.

comscore = crap (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879151)

is there anything else to this story?

Re:comscore = crap (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879213)

is there anything else to this story?
If I persued the Conspiricy theorists line, yes, there is. Is this an attempt for a little guy to take on a much bigger guy?

Will it work? I think following this story may give us some interesting insight as to how this technique works "in the wild" as it were. But it won't be the first time /. was used as a weapon to take on an opponent.

Re:comscore = crap (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879321)

Funny thing about that, is none of the Digital Home articles state that they are in trouble. It's only the summary that makes that assertion.

Web Ratings are great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18879161)

until you get Slashdotted...

How appropriate (3, Insightful)

illectro (697914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879185)

That I read this on slashdot - a site who's alexa ratings have been skewed by an audiece who know the potency of the Alexa toolbar. (Look at the alexa graphs for one year ago and you'll see a massive jump in Slashdot, Digg and some other related sites)

Yes ratings can be hugely misleading, I remember hearing that Om Malik will walk out of any meeting where alexa stats are brought up by marketdroids.

Re:How appropriate (1)

fanpoe (598824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18885939)

Yes ratings can be hugely misleading

I have an older non-technical site that gets a couple of thousand visits a day and a new web development related site that gets 20 visits a day (if it's lucky). Guess which one has the higher Alexa rank? Yep, the technical one. Only a couple of orders of magnitude out.

ComScore Measures US Traffic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18879193)

Those numbers are probably accurate. The ComScore number reflects monthly US unique visitors. The Google Analytics number isn't uniques, just a summary of the daily visits. Check the "absolute unique visitors" section under Google Analytics and multiply by the % US traffic in the geo location section and you'll see that ComScore's numbers are usually pretty right on.

Re:ComScore Measures US Traffic (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879283)

and multiply by the % US traffic in the geo location section and you'll see that ComScore's numbers are usually pretty right on.

So why would Canadian advertisers care about this for a Canadian site? (or is that a 'Canada' site? - the bit with the geese and mints has me all confused).

Re: ComScore Measures US Traffic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18881623)

Luckily, Alexa knows [alexa.com] that 70% of digitalhome's traffic is from Canada.

Re:ComScore Measures US Traffic (2, Informative)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879361)

A web buyer at one of Canada's largest advertising agencies confirmed that ComScore reported just 32,000 visitors.

- from the summary

Membership in the forum is free and with over 75 interest groups and 32,000 members, there is always something new and interesting to discuss.

- from digital home under "discuss and learn more"

Interesting relationship between those numbers, eh?

We need metaraters (3, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879199)

Of course, bad ratings are bad for sites and they should be -- if a site sucks and gets few visitors who are of the right demographic and right frame of mind for click-throughs, then its no surprise that advertisers would want to avoid them. The real issue is badly estimated ratings. If GoogScore claims a bazillion unique visitors when there really was a gajillion, then something is wrong.

The web advertising ecosystem needs metaraters -- services that determine the quality of ComScore, Google Analytics, et al.

Re:We need metaraters (2, Funny)

CriminalNerd (882826) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879593)

The web advertising ecosystem needs metaraters

Something like /.'s?

http://www.goatse.cx/

This website has been rated "Insightful"

Fair or Unfair? ( )Fair | ( )Unfair

Re:We need metaraters (1)

BruceCage (882117) | more than 7 years ago | (#18880853)

I really, really don't want to see that in context.

So a Digg for rating services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18879611)

So you're essentially suggesting a Digg-style, community-based system for rating these traffic rating services. It'll probably be just as shitty as Digg is. Digg already has some pretty serious problems with cliques that "attack" other users by burying their stories and comments. Add to that all those who digg posts in exchange for money. What's to stop these ratings sites from buying their way to a high ranking? Nothing, really.

Digg has been a complete failure. It's shown that community-based rating sites are far too easily abused.

Advertising. (3, Insightful)

m0rph3us0 (549631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879201)

It's rare that a business that delivers value to it's customer that exceeds the cost of running the business has money problems. Likely Digital Home mainly gets page views by people who are not likely to convert on seeing the ad (informed consumers tend to fall for the hype) and the same customers don't see the value in subscribing to such a service, or wish to donate.

How is a television show getting cancelled any different than going out of business anyways?

A Television show likely employs many more people who will get equally laid off when it is cancelled than Digital Home. How TV generally works is that a production company produces the show and then sells it. This is why you will see shows sometimes move between networks. To insulate the investors a company is usually formed on its own to produce the show. Once the show is cancelled and a new buyer cannot be found the business is generally ended.

If you can't find a market for your services I'd suggest producing a new service rather than whining about ratings systems. There is a lot of money out there, if there is real value certainly someone will buy it. (Whether via advertising or via subscription)

Re:Advertising. (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879465)

I'd suggest producing a new service

Or finding a new market, say by selling your service to your subscribers instead of advertisers. Especially if your content is teaching people to see through the crap in ads, which advertisers are obviously not buying.

Live by the ComScore (2, Informative)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879253)

... die by the ComScore

Advertising isn't the only way, and ComScore isn't the only way to do advertising.

Re:Live by the ComScore (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18880183)

Last week, The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced that it had sent a letter to the two companies [comscore and Nielsen//NetRatings] requesting that each company submit to an audit of their web measuring processes due to the huge discrepancies in their numbers.

The IAB, whose 332 members account for 86 percent of U.S. online advertising spending...
[Many paragraphs]
On Monday, comscore responded to the IAB by saying that "comScore's panel methodologies reflect the investment of millions of dollars and years of research and development. We are confident that they will stand the scrutiny of a third-party evaluation or audit."

Part of the story here is that the metrics being used by these companies are being questioned.
And possibly the more important aspect is that it isn't just by digital home, but by an organization that can do something about the funny numbers.

Speaking of cancelled... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18879455)

...Nathan Fillion (Malcolm Reynolds) and Tim Minear's new venture, Drive [wikipedia.org] , just got canned by Fox after the 3rd episode. I think that's a new low.

(OT. I know, but then again I'm an AC posting at 0, so I don't think it matters)

Re:Speaking of cancelled... (2, Informative)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879565)

It debuted in the United States on April 15, 2007 on FOX.

For anyone that's counting that's ten days ago.

Re:Speaking of cancelled... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18880107)

It debuted in the United States on April 15, 2007 on FOX.
For anyone that's counting that's ten days ago.
You insensitive clod. Thats ten days for everyone without OCD too.

Re:Speaking of cancelled... (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18880139)

yep, ten days, definitely ten days...mm hmm..ten days... :)

Re:Speaking of cancelled... (1)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18894385)

Drive starred Nathan Fillion, who also starred in Serenity, which Fox also fucked in the ass and canned early. Methinks someone at Fox doesn't like Nathan Fillion at all.

Rogue Land Owners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18879461)

http://roguelandowners.com/ [roguelandowners.com]

Are we missing something? (4, Interesting)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879549)

How about the fact that Bell not only threatened Digital Home with pulling it's ads because of an article it didn't like, but then doing so? Is that not a bigger issue than how the site is ranked? Let's look at the facts for a sec:

1. Bell threatened to pull their ads because his article "was having a negative impact on dealer sales."

2. Digital Home presents that what they said is accurate and is confirmed by multiple sources. Not to mention that this info was public domain.

3. Bell yanks it's ads.

It sounds like Bell is ticked that people are going to wait a couple of months before they get a receiver for HDTV from them because they want the latest and greatest. You can't fault the consumer for that.

If this was happening to the New York Times, we'd be up in arms and this would be under "Your Rights Online" or "Censorship." But somehow this is a story about Comscore. I'm not saying that that aspect of the story doesn't have merit, but there's an equally important issue here that needs to be explored.

Re:Are we missing something? (2, Interesting)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879635)

If this was happening to the New York Times, we'd be up in arms and this would be under "Your Rights Online" or "Censorship."


Advertisers pull their ads when they don't like the content all the time. Even from the New York Times. Why should Bell be forced to advertise on a site the disapprove of?

Re:Are we missing something? (5, Informative)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879733)

If this was happening to the New York Times, we'd be up in arms and this would be under "Your Rights Online" or "Censorship." But somehow this is a story about Comscore. I'm not saying that that aspect of the story doesn't have merit, but there's an equally important issue here that needs to be explored.

It's not censorship for an advertiser to decide to stop advertising in a particular publication. Advertisers don't have any obligation, legal or moral, to spend their advertising dollars on one publication over another. If the money you were spending on advertising was actually hurting your sales you'd have to be an idiot not to stop, at least until you could determine if the problem was something you could fix rather than something inherent in the publication (like, say, some horrible offensive language in your ad that you could remove or re-word).

Dealing with issues like this is why most legitimate publications (like the NY Times) maintain a strict separation between the people who do advertising and the people who do editorial content, so that pressure from advertisers can't influence editorial. If an advertiser threatens to walk from the Times, their response is to have their advertising people go beat the bushes for new advertisers, not to stomp their feet about how unfair it is.

You don't get it at all do you : ) (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879877)

the purebred slashdotter can only have one outrage at a time, otherwise it will explode : )

any unsuccessful attempt to introduce a new outrage to a pre-existing one will result in your new outrage dying from lack of nutrition.

any successful attempt to introduce a new outrage to a pre-existing one will kill off the original.

this said.. it's in the best interest of outrage preservation that we keep them safe and separate, otherwise peta will douse you with red paint.

Well there's still some good news (2, Interesting)

solar_blitz (1088029) | more than 7 years ago | (#18879989)

If web ratings go through, crappy sites might get the axe. That's a whole lot of MySpace pages the world can do without.

Disconnect (4, Insightful)

PingXao (153057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18880195)

If low web ratings cause sites to go out of business then what's the thinking behind the other front page story that has the EU moving to ban online hate speech? Won't a lack of advertisers cause hate-speech sites to go dark after a short time? There seems to be some sort of disconnect here.

Oh, wait... I get it. Website ratings are (a) overrated and (b) meaningless when you get right down to it. Only sites that are dedicated to the proposition of making a profit really care about such things as ratings and advertising revenue. Objectionable sites, like those that promote hate-speech, don't care what their ratings are. The tooth fairy must pay their expenses and keep them from going out of business. Of course, that applies also to non-hate sites. Sites that are run out of a love or passion for a specific topic of interest. Sites maintained by enthusiasts or hobbyists who aren't worried about making a profit.

When you come right down to it you could eliminate every site that carries advertising on the web and I wouldn't notice. And hate-speech sites aren't exactly in my bookmark list either. I think the web would be a better place without advertising of any kind. Hence, my complete lack of remorse for any site that closes down because their ad revenue isn't making the nut. Too bad. I will continue to block all ads that I can.

Re:Disconnect (2, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18882125)

When you come right down to it you could eliminate every site that carries advertising on the web and I wouldn't notice.

Uh? You do realise you posted that comment on a site that carries advertising?

Re:Disconnect (1)

legoboy (39651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887391)

Face it, this crappy web forum is about seven or eight years past its prime, back before people stopped caring what Slashdot thought because everyone realized it was such an entirely predictable minority opinion.

Re:Disconnect (1)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18894463)

Face it, this crappy web forum is about seven or eight years past its prime, back before people stopped caring what Slashdot thought because everyone realized it was such an entirely predictable minority opinion.

I mean this in all seriousness and as a non-rhetorical question. If that's how you really feel, why don't you just stop reading?

Re:Disconnect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18905087)

I have stopped reading it, but every now and then I accidentally open an entire folder of old forum bookmarks at once by middleclicking it when trying to close a nearby tab, and then I glance at whatever isn't too boring and troll the comments. (This time I unchecked 'post anonymous' because the whole 'barely any posts in the last 6 years' supported what I said).

And as everyone knows, anyone vaguely trolling simply must check for replies.

Re:Disconnect (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18895625)

because everyone realized it was such an entirely predictable minority opinion.

Obviously not everyone, you for instance care enough to post.

Re:Disconnect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18905265)

You just spent both time & money (subscription) to read this. Congratulations.

(Holy fuck, I just spent time too. How long is the gap between replies now? I'll just hit submit in an hour or so.)

Re:Disconnect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18884739)

Objectionable sites, like those that promote hate-speech, don't care what their ratings are. The tooth fairy must pay their expenses and keep them from going out of business.

My little site only costs me fifteen bucks per year. I spend more than that on one night's drinking!

Re:Disconnect (1)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18894647)

When you come right down to it you could eliminate every site that carries advertising on the web and I wouldn't notice. And hate-speech sites aren't exactly in my bookmark list either. I think the web would be a better place without advertising of any kind. Hence, my complete lack of remorse for any site that closes down because their ad revenue isn't making the nut. Too bad. I will continue to block all ads that I can.

So who's going to pay for all the stuff you read? Who do you think pays for Slashdot? I doubt subscriber income covers the costs. Who do you think pays for Google and Yahoo? You do realise that without advertising all you'd have would be shitty homepages, shopping and advertising sites from corporations, yes? Any site which became popular wouldn't be able to be supported by its originators unless they were unusually wealthy and philanthropic and would thus have to turn to a subscription model, limit traffic or shut down. I'm guessing you don't want to pay a subscription either, because if you did you'd be a Slashdot subscriber. So you don't want to pay and you don't want to see ads. But I guess you still want Google to build billion dollar server farms to let you search the net.

People like you blocking ads increases the numebr of ads for the rest of us (as they need more ads to get the same return from a smaller number of viewers). Ad-blocking will also hasten the advent of DRM on the web. Sites need advertising revenue to survive. They will look for mechanisms to ensure you see those ads, because without them the sites will cease to exist. So thanks a fucking bunch for hastening the end of free, unrestricted content on the web you selfish cunt.

Fir5t post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18881819)

to the original Whole haS lost Towels on the floor AND SHOWER. FOR Poor dead last do, and with any according tothis already aware, *BSD truth, for all

Who needs ratings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18885085)

This is stupid. The web is the one advertising medium where the advertiser knows exactly how many times the ad has been viewed. Each ad is the subject of a separate HTTP request, and by keeping track of the count you know the precise number of downloads.

So why do you need to know the rating of the containing web page? That only tells you how often the page is viewed, and doesn't take into account freeloaders like me who use Adblock. Your own ad download statistics are a much better measure and the page ratings are irrelevant.

The same thing happens in radio. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18888155)

There was a station in Hawaii called "Radio Free Hawaii", they ran the music programming democraticly. There were ballot boxes placed in many businesses, colleges and other points of interest. Every week they tallied everyone's top 10 votes and did a top 36 countdown. Anything that consistantly got a few votes would get airplay on the "Dark Horse" show after recieving +10 votes. Anyway, just by sheer number of ballots they knew they were a rather popular station. Not to mention everyone talked about them, and thier outdoor festivals "The Big Mele" were huge. They never did subscribe to the rating company's informational services and somehow kept coming in dead last in ratings. So they never built up a big advertising base and eventually ran out of money.
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