This is the most controversial and inflammatory issue in media. Its the reason I rail against the Facebook or Twitter numbers. And TV numbers. And Digital. Its the reason I question and challenge all measurement data that is 'Estimated'. And most media measurement is an estimation and thus imperfect. And even hard facts are spun with that spin when it benefits a specific party.
I recently got into an email fight with Fortune Magazine because the Journalism side of Advertising and Media often are not critical thinkers. This time it was because I wanted them to not just regurgitate Facebook's claim of 500million users, and put in some caveats so someone reading can determine the real value of this claim.
Now I need to adjust those numbers. If I use 500 million vs 200 million the numbers become awful:
On Facebook users Like something less than 2x per month. They upload 3 photos per month. And post a comment or update their status once every 5 days! You call that a website you want to engage people on????
I have posted examples of this stuff in my blog, specifically recently for MobileMarketer.com
The whole reason is to determine the real value of something. Brands will pay gladly if they know they can reach someone. Trust me they would rather the Nielsen TV ratings be real than Estimated. It benefits the media outlets when audience size is overstated because marketers pay per person. Brands want bigger reach, its not that they are hoping to save money if the accurate number is lower. But too often media outlets overstate.
In the Facebook case I would tell a client there is 80mil US Consumers logging into Facebook each day. For Twitter there is only 5 to 10 mil logging in each day. Those are facts. I would tell them that any account that isn't logged in today is worthless and don't pay for any 'reach' that is worthless. And where is the marketing being done. Anything being inserted into the Twitter or Facebook live stream will only be seen by 5-20% of the users who stream it enters. This is determined by number of accounts one is following and time spent. Last night I was watching a movie. In 2 hours I missed 850 Tweets on Twitter. Any of those tweets that were meant for marketing...I did not see them. But the Social Marketing person will tell their Boss they have 8000 followers and that is how many that saw it?
My point is everything has a value. It's always one party's benefit during negotiations to inflate or deflate the value of something. And Advertising is the one industry where everything is a Guesstimate. And Agencies and Media Channels both want to increase their billings and while the Brands/Clients want to pay for what is real and not pay for fake numbers. 2 against 1 is why up to 50% if Ad Spend is wasted.