As many of you know, I am a member of the WAA Standards committee as well as the IAB. This past Friday, the MediaPost metrics insider email newsletter ran a commentary from David Smith on how Jim Sterne from the WAA and Randall Rothenberg from the IAB should get together to talk – and to not continue setting standards without collaborating with each other. As a member of the WAA Standards committee who reached out to the IAB on this very topic, I felt compelled to respond to David’s posting. He brings up a very important topic within the space, but I do feel that he wrote without knowing what the groups were actually doing.
You can read David’s post here. My response to his posting is below. I would appreciate your comments on the topic – or better yet, respond on the Metrics Insider blog.
You bring up an excellent point and one that the WAA Standards Committee has discussed ad nauseum. As a member of the WAA Standards Committee I can tell you that we have had conference calls with the authoring members of standards from the IAB and the MRC. In fact, I’ll be sitting down to lunch with that same team at the IAB Measurement Forum this Thursday in NYC. The WAA Standards Committee’s focus on standards does differ slightly from the IAB, but there is room for collaboration (and improvement of course). The WAA is focused on ensuring that the name of each metric and its definition 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 for one site, while filtered explicitly and not counted on another. The goal of the web analyst is to analyze their 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 ensures compliance. As advertisers are paying for impressions, clickthroughs and view throughs, the standards that this body sets must have a technical definition – and 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 that drives the ability to document and enforce the standards that are set. 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 corporate memberships, 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 advertisers and publishers who require mediation of counting methodologies to ensure fairness and compliance.
4. 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 clickthrough), 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 to communicate with each other and work through 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. They represent different bodies of users 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 you address in your column. I am writing to let you know that we are.