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Quantcast and its cousins in the analytics space

I love this headline from Valleywag: Quantcast gets $20 million in funding — and more attention than it deserves. Haha!

What is absolutely true is that the analytics space has been changing very rapidly. Traditionally, there’s been one main axis for analytics, which depended on whether or not you were publisher-leaning or if you were advertiser-leaning:

publisher leaning <—-> advertiser-leaning
omniture/google <——–> comscore/nielsen
(pardon the ascii art!)

Publisher-leaning analytics
Under publisher-leaning bucket, you have companies like Omniture, Coremetrics, Urchin (acquired by Google), etc. These are companies that primarily focus on the usual things, like:

  • pageviews
  • conversions
  • unique users
  • etc.

And as to be expected, these analytics providers charge on a monthly basis to publishers, who take the data and publish it in media kits as well as for internal purposes.

Advertiser-leaning analytics
On the other side of the coin, you have companies like comScore and Nielsen, which traditionally help advertisers figure out CROSS-site metrics, so that they can figure out where to buy advertising. As a result, many of the stats they offer include things like:

  • demographics (age/gender/etc.)
  • audience composition
  • cross-site overlap
  • etc.

Their primary goal is to answer things like, "I’m trying to reach teenagers – which sites should I be talking to, for buying advertising?" This cross-site process has necessarily ended up with the panel-based measurement that everyone freaks out about ;-)

Other interesting divergences
And of course, advertisers and publishers have a little bit of an adversarial relationship. After all, if advertisers can "find the needle in the haystack" before the publisher does, they can buy crappy advertising inventory that’s in fact, really targeted inventory. And similarly, the publisher would love to obscure some of their ad inventory as to force the advertisers to buy both good and bad advertising at a premium.

So across a variety of tools beyond analytics, you have mirror-versions of each tool. A good example of this: A lot of publishers have their own internal ad servers like Doubleclick’s DART, but a lot of advertisers use so-called "third party ad servers" like aQuantive’s.

Analytics by channel
Similarly, I’ll expect that any new analytics product – be it in video, social network analysis, widgets, etc. – to always have an advertiser-side version of the company as well as a publisher side.

This is where things are very interesting for Quantcast. Seems as though the highest margins for them are going to be facilitating the ad-buying process, yet they are also having the publishers do a pixel implementation to track more specific information. Question is, long-run are they more of an advertiser-leaning company? Or a publisher-leaning company? Only time can tell…

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