One thing that has fascinated me is the battle between Media Outlets and Brands/Advertisers over ratings and measurements. Whether this is online or airwaves. Brands pay a fee for each thousand people an Ad is viewed or heard by. It is in the best interest of Media Outlets to amplify the numbers even if they aren't accurate. Brands willingly pay for each person reached but they get ripped off if they pay for phantom contact.
Measurement is getting better, BUT it is still all estimation. Until we have big brother in every room, or wherever we go, proving we actually viewed or heard something, measuring will be an estimate. I sure hope and pray we never have big brother.
So this means Media Outlets and Brands have to compromise, and why ratings services like Arbitron and Nielsen exist. The problem right now is as measurement gets more accurate audience numbers drop, causing revenue loss to Media Outlets. This is fair, but any business that can lose revenue is going to fight to keep that revenue, whether that revenue is ethical or not.
I think he biggest areas of audience inflation are for TV and for online measurements. So many folks are multitasking now. I watched the Olympics last night while watching State of Play on my Laptop. I had the sound off the TV and would pause the movie when I saw the snowboarders ready at the gate. The commercials played in my room. I was in my room, I neither heard or saw most of them. Yet NBC made money on me, and the Advertisers lost money on me. Or when someone falls asleep with the TV on. Advertisers are paying for that sleeping person.
As for online I truly think clicks are the best measurement. Time spent on a website is truly today a bunch of crap sorry to be blunt. With all the browsers offering tabs and he ability to be on a website live, with it hidden from your views for hours upon hours, time spent is a ridiculous measurement. But Facebook pumps the time spent endlessly, trying to make it look like people spend all this time on their site when I bet the reality is 10-20% of their claim. At least clicks can't be fibbed!
But this leads to another dilemma my inquiries have never been answered because those I ask would never, ever want to admit this is going on. Currently Firefox has 22% of the browser market. 700,000 Firefox users download the Ad Blocking software that blocks 95% of all digital ads...and even blocks search engine paid search results (like Google's Ad Words). At least with Google I am pretty sure that you only get charged if you click through the link. But Banner Ads? What if my browser blocks them, but they were still served to my screen. Does a Brand get charged for that? They shouldn't be, but no Ad Network has responded to my question about this. On top of the Ad Blocker issue because I use Windows and have had virus infections launched from java script and flash before, no scripts run on my browser unless I unlock a website. Which means none of the Ad Networks themselves ever run on my machine. They still serve Ads to specific sites I have unblocked/Unlocked because 1] they are trusted and 2] for free content I feel this is fair.
So measurement wars will not end anytime soon. I think honesty needs to be the motto for Media Outlets because Brands/Advertisers want to reach people, they just don't want to pay for phantom contacts, or feel fleeced by their vendor.