YuMe and comScore Quarrel Over Top 10 Ad Networks Ranking

The folks at YuMe cheered on July 21st, when they issued a press release in regard to their big jump in comScore’s top 10 online ad networks. Now, their enthusiasm seems to have turned in anger, since comScore decided to amend the report without even having notified YuMe.

What is the story, anyway?

Back in July 21st, comScore reported that YuMe had over 134 million unique visitors in June – this figure made YuMe the 8th largest ad network overall, and undoubtedly the largest video ad network.

Here’s what the original comScore Media Metrix report for June 2008 stated:

1. Platform-A / 170,312
2. Yahoo! Network / 158,064
3. Google Ad Network / 154,419
4. Specific Media / 148,311
5. ValueClick Networks / 141,915
6. Yahoo! / 138,426
7. Tribal Fusion / 137,569
8. YuMe Video Network / 134,864
9. Google / 131,697
10. Casale Media Network 128,569

However, comScore’s Ad Focus report for June shows YuMe to be ranked 32nd, with only 59.2 million unique visitors.

What has happened?

The web measurement service simply changed their initial rankings and hasn’t even notified YuMe or otherwise publicly note a correction. A spokesperson for comScore said that some of the MSN traffic assigned to YuMe was incorrect and that the new figures published in the Ad Focus report do not include this “inappropriately assigned” traffic. The sudden surge in traffic volumes registered by YuMe in June were, indeed, a result of their earlier deal with Microsoft to serve ads on their remnant inventory – however, the initial comScore figures counted all MSN page views and not only the ones where ads were actually served.

Molly Gallatin, Director of Marketing for YuMe, expressed her disappointment over comScore not using the same rules for all sites: “it’s fine if comScore decided the way visitors are rolled up in the Ad Focus report is not ideal and they want to change how the report is compiled. But then they have to change it for everyone, not just one network.”

What YuMe brought to everybody’s attention is that it’s customary for ad networks to get credit for all traffic of a site and not just for the monetized inventory, since all traffic represents a possible audience for the ads across a portal – especially in YuMe’s case when most of MSN’s pages carry videos.

YuMe is now working with comScore to provide additional data on their agreements with various publishers, and hope to have their initial ranking as number 8 restored, or at least reach a compromise.

Arguably, video networks should be separated from display ad networks since the comparison would not be fair: video ads can run both within videos and in display ad units. The major source of inexactities and conflicts when comparing video networks with display ad networks is that, in the case on in-stream ads, they only run when a visitor engages with the video, thus remaining uncounted for a large portion of the page views.

What will comScore do? The fair option is to simply split the rankings, as YuMe suggested. Another one would be to publicly announce a new uniform methodology in ranking the ad networks, after discussions and agreements with all parties involved. What will it be, no idea yet.