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He spoke to us about how Web 2.0 features and concepts are shaking up the measurement space, the need for standards and the implications for site owners and advertisers.
In a nutshell, what are the challenges associated with measuring Web 2.0 traffic?
A lot of what is really important is happening either a) off the ‘website’ proper, such as RSS or b) below the level of the ‘page view’.
The former creates a challenge because, well, it’s hard to measure stuff that is out of your control. The latter because so many of the web analytics applications out there treat the page view as canonical.
Ask yourself: what about AJAX applications allowing multiple user ‘events’ without a page reload? What about podcast ‘listens’? What about people who are tremendously loyal to your content but never visit your web site? What about mash-ups like Google Maps? The list of challenges Web 2.0 is creating for us is long, to be sure.
Has the industry made any obvious move to create Web 2.0 reporting standards or KPIs?
Depends on who you ask. I’ve seen some writing about Web 2.0 measurement but nobody is talking about standards or KPIs. OK, nobody but me in my weblog .
Do you feel there's an urgent need for this to be sorted?
Absolutely. Because if, as an industry, we don't, we'll be in exactly the same space two years from now that we are today bickering about the definition of a ‘unique visitor’.
Look at the recent complaints big advertisers have expressed about Comscore and Nielsen measurements. Listen to any big site gripe about differences in numbers different systems are reporting.
Then think about the inherent complexity involved in measuring all this stuff that happens off our sites or below our pages that is becoming more and more critical to our businesses? Yeah, this needs to be worked out now, not later.
What options are available now?
Well, aside from the obvious answer you'd infer from my joining Visual Sciences , it's fractured. Blogs are being measured with MeasureMap , Blogbeat etc, and RSS with Feedburner . Top-tier vendors like WebSideStory are announcing new measurement options.
What are the implications for online ad buyers?
Well, what if your favourite site to advertise on went all AJAX? What if all the sudden instead of getting 100,000 impressions daily AJAX was handling the interactions and page loads were cut down by 50%? What would that mean to your ability to reach your preferred audience?
What role do you think Google will play in the Web 2.0 measurement space?
Not sure, but the interview Manoj Jasra has with Brett Crosby from Google Analytics alludes to the fact that they're working on it.
Apart from Web 2.0 measurement, what do you see as the main challenges facing the web analytics industry?
Support and education. It's still hard for some companies to hire qualified folks to support their customers business needs re. web analytics and education is always an issue.
The good news is that a substantially larger number of companies are actively looking for dedicated web data analysts to manage their technology investment. The bad news is that those people are hard to find and they always need support and education.
Do you think that companies are getting better at using analytics?
Absolutely. Without a doubt. I've been to every Emetrics Summit ever held and I noted to Jim Sterne that the quality of questions companies were asking between 2005 and 2006 was dramatically improved.
People had stopped asking about 'hits' and started asking about how they could get the rest of the company to pay attention to the data. It's an exciting time to be in web analytics to be sure.
What kind of effect do you think the release of Google Analytics has had on the market?
Man, if I got a share of Google every time someone asked me that. Seriously, I think aside from my previously stated concerns about how they support their substantial customer base, I have no doubt that GA is good for the entire industry.
For now tons of companies are exploring whether GA is right for them and tons more are just experimenting with web analytics for the first time. But before long, I predict that many of these companies will look to vendors that offer a greater breadth of services alongside the technology.
Do you see any consolidation happening in the analytics space?
I would say that we're starting to see some of the consolidation that probably is the precursor of a mature market by the end of the decade (or perhaps early next).
What tips do you have for companies who are investing in web analytics to help find the right provider?
Wow. I used to have like a 45 minute briefing on that subject but I'm biased in that regard now. I think there are a few good hacks in Web Site Measurement Hacks on the subject around selecting a vendor and writing an RFP and the such.
I suppose you could just poke around in the Yahoo! group I founded a few years ago. There are a bunch of well-meaning and highly opinionated folks that hang out there willing to answer questions and share experiences.
Finally, and this is just a shameless sales pitch, you could contact me and I'll point you in the right direction. Heh.
Eric talked to Richard Maven. Contact the blog team via firstname.lastname@example.org .