BoSacks Says Beware of the Digital Statistical Bull

[responsive]bullsEarlier this month the Association for Magazine Media announced the launch of Magazine Media 360[/responsive], dubbed as the “new way to measure magazine readership.”

At the time, we cautioned that including digital readership of so-called “magazine” content was likely too broad to be of much use. But we understand why the industry is anxious to count their digital hits; they need to justify continued digital ad spend.

Now BoSacks has brilliantly articulated the underlying issue with the Magazine Media 360 concept, and he’s not afraid to call it as he smells it.

“As the industry moves forward with the MPA’s 360 program I implore you all to avoid the bullshit,” writes BoSacks. “Our new effort at creating the complete magazine media picture is not necessarily the wrong thing to do, because we need to do something. But relying on fraudulent digital data, which is everywhere, is a very dangerous thing to build our evolving new media businesses upon. Claiming media reach is a dicey and sometimes meaningless expression when using digital statistics.”

Indeed, even Facebook admits that between 6 and 13 million fraudulent accounts are in use at any given time, wildly skewing any legitimate tracking of digital reach.

BoSacks is not afraid to call out the criteria for what constitutes ad visibility, either.

“Did you know that a web ad seen for one second ‘counts’ as an ad seen? Did you know that in many and most cases a web ad run ‘below the fold, as in at the bottom of the page, counts as an ad seen? HUH?” BoSacks is rightly incredulous.

Measuring of digital magazine readership is important. Yet digital statistical measurements have a two-fold credibility issue, in defining what constitutes magazine content, and in the fraud and abuse that content is subject to.

BoSacks notes that similar bull has been going on in the print industry, but that at least you could come down to the number of printed pages and ad pages. He cautions that, while we inherently understand the vagaries of the digital counts, we would be wise not to forget that it’s based, at best, on sketchy info.