Here is my article that ran in MediaPost’s Metrics Insider on Friday November 27, 2009:
I could sit here and write about the 20 pound turkey that I just roasted, but most of you are probably not eating turkey at this point, you are digging in for the after Thanksgiving sales and vegging in front of the TV. While you are recovering from your tryptophan hangover, keep your eyes open for the cell phone commercial war going on between Verizon and AT&T. Most of you have probably heard about their public “coverage” battle that has filled both the news and airways over the past few weeks. Verizon is essentially calling “BS” on AT&T’s claim of having so much “coverage” and the maps that they use to illustrate it.
I don’t’ know about you, but I don’t know the specific metric calculation for “coverage”. In my personal experience, coverage is a description reserved for throwing on my bathrobe or observing another person’s choice in swimwear. However, this very public battle that the two companies have waged brings up the obvious question of “how do you measure coverage?” (Kind of like that engagement question we all seem to ponder way too often). Coverage is a metric that the two companies are debating, but since there are no standards set for the metric, one must ask the question of how that is calculated.
AT&T measures coverage based on “POPs”, also known as “Points of Presence” or the locations of where the actual cell towers are placed. Verizon on the other hand measures coverage based on “territory” or the actual square mileage of their coverage. Is one better than the other (hold your brand preference comments please)?
Analytics vendors often calculate engagement, session and even unique visitor metrics differently from each other, in some cases due to technical capabilities and in other cases to support a marketing claim. So why wouldn’t wireless phone providers not do the same in order to sell their product? I am not claiming that one vendor is better than the other, but when any person or business is making their selection they have to go back to their requirements before they choose their vendor. One size just doesn’t fit all.
This is a metrics game in how you interpret “coverage”. If the vendor with the more favorable metric, whether it be POP or square footage coverage provides you with a competitive advantage in how you do business, your travel patterns or meets your goals and objectives, then it is probably the right vendor for you. Simply relying on the marketing message and not digging in deeper to understand the features and benefits doesn’t serve anyone. I cringe as I write this given the industry we are in. We all know that metrics standards are critical in conducting business online, but sometimes metrics are wrapped in marketing messages. If you don’t ask what they mean and how they are calculated, you may not know what you are getting for your money.