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News Analysis 21 Apr 2021 - 3 min read

IAB pulls endorsement of Nielsen digital audience rankings as some publishers set for 25% audience declines

By Josh McDonnell and Paul McIntyre

IAB's Gai Le Roy: "We're not completely writing off the data nor rubbishing what Nielsen have put forward, there is still an ongoing review process of the data and we are trying to work through outstanding questions around variance that we have."

Following Mi3's report on the IAB putting Nielsen's measurement service to tender, the industry body has also confirmed it won't fully endorse Nielsen's new audience measurement service, which replaces the now scrapped Digital Content Ratings product. Nielsen's panel-only service has been renamed Digital Media Ratings and publishers with upmarket audience skews are likely to see declines of up to 25% under the revised methodology.

What you need to know:

  • IAB has announced it won't fully endorse the methodology for Nielsen's new alternative to replace Digital Content Ratings.
  • Nielsen has renamed the service Digital Media Ratings using a 10,000 consumer panel-only methodology covering 9500 sites and 500 tagged publishers.
  • Publisher audience tallies will likely see declines of 25% for some titles like The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age under the new methodology. However, News Corp is said to regain the top slot from the ABC in the revised methodology.    
  • The IAB has flagged concerns and queries over unresolved data issues for Digital Media Ratings.

Underlying tensions between IAB members and current measurement provider Nielsen have continued with the industry body stating it won't be endorsing the new monthly audience data being provided in soft launch by Nielsen.

The methodology concerns relate to the newly proposed alternative to Nielsen's Digital Content Ratings, renamed Digital Media Ratings. The IAB cites outstanding methodology concerns and data queries that remain unresolved as reason behind the decision.

There have been no changes to the methodology for volumetric data measured from media owner tagging, which includes page views, time spent and sessions metrics. The IAB continues to back this part of Nielsen's service. But monthly publisher site audience numbers and rankings have lost the IAB's backing and remain under review. 

The IAB Board and IAB Measurement Council (representing 15 media & agency organisations) take the endorsement of ratings currency data very seriously," said IAB CEO Gai Le Roy.

"The most recent iteration of data produced under the new methodology was provided to the Measurement Council in early April and this has been reviewed in parallel with data produced under the previous Digital Content Ratings methodology."

According to the IAB, the methodology change has resulted in significantly different data under this new interim step audience measurement solution. Mi3 understands audience data is showing wild variations for certain publishers.

As a result, during the soft launch period, Nielsen will not be publicly releasing audience numbers or rankings using Digital Media Ratings panel data.

"The IAB and the Australian Publishers undertake one of the most rigorous digital measurement review processes seen by Nielsen around the world," Nielsen Pacific Managing Director Monique Perry said. "We appreciate that the industry will need more time to assess the data and to become familiar with the new methodology being applied. Nielsen fully supports and respects the process the IAB, its Measurement Council and Board are following in relation to Digital Media Ratings (DMR)."

Perry said a "soft release" of audience data would be released today "as the industry has asked for up-to-date audience data to make informed decisions around the buying and selling of digital inventory."

Today's release, however, will likely escalate tensions as the reversion to a 10,000 panel-only service will likely see declines of up to 25% for publishers with a larger proportion of higher socio-economic audiences.

"Nielsen is working to help the market understand there is a trend break from January 2021 for tagged publisher audiences as we transition from the old methodology to the new one," said Perry. "The size of the trend break will be different for each publisher."   

Despite concerns over the methodology, Le Roy told Mi3 this move did not spell the end for Nielsen's current arrangement with the IAB, with the two parties working to find a solution.

"We're not completely writing off the data nor rubbishing what Nielsen have put forward, there is still an ongoing review process of the data and we are trying to work through outstanding questions around variance that we have," Le Roy said.

The upheaval and decision to oppose Nielsen follows a report from Mi3 last week that detailed the ongoing tender by the IAB to find a new measurement partner.

Many expressed frustration with Nielsen as “slow-moving and ineffective”.

The IAB is also using the tender to lay the foundations for a future unified cross-media measurement initiative. This is inclusive of both large and niche publishers across text and video on browsers and apps across desktop/laptop, smartphones, tablets, and CTV.

International advertising body, The WFA, is currently coordinating with global brands and national advertiser associations to develop a programme to expedite the implementation of a “new wave” of cross-media measurement solutions.

Some, however, label cross media measurement a "pipe dream". 


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Josh McDonnell and Paul McIntyre

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