Media auditor ABC to start measuring digital audiences

Publishers will not only get the actual number of page views but also the profiles of their readers

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), the non-profit body for measuring and auditing newspaper and magazine circulation in the country, has decided to start measuring digital audiences in a move that could be a major boost to the digital media industry.

The announcement was made by ABC in Mumbai after a meeting that also saw the appointment of Shashi Sinha, the chief executive officer of media agency IPG Mediabrands, as its chairman for 2015-16.

At the 67th annual general meeting of ABC, I. Venkat of Ushodaya Enterprises, which publishes the Eenadu newspaper, was named deputy chairman of the body.

Sinha is expected to drive the ambitious project on audience measurement for digital media.

“It’s a big shift for ABC, which has been a body for print media. Now, it is getting into digital audience measurement with research and information firm Nielsen,” Sinha said.

In a statement, ABC’s secretary general H.B. Masani said that the digital measurement services offered by ABC would be available to all digital properties that wish to get their numbers measured in a transparent manner.

“We are open to all digital products and not just newspaper publishers’ online businesses. The plan is to keep the pricing of the service low so that more and more people can access it,” Sinha said.

The digital measurement by ABC will be the first of its kind by an industry body.

“We have been working on it for a year. Although there are some private measurement services available, this will be the first by an industry body,” Sinha said.

The entire process of digital measurement will be controlled and audited to ensure that the measurement data truly reflects its audiences, Masani added.

According to Sinha, publishers will not only get the actual number of page views but also the profiles of their readers.

“The service will be more like a combination of ABC and the Indian Readership Survey, which is for print. We will have a panel both for desktops and mobiles. The future is mobile,” he added.

According to a report on media and entertainment by consulting firm KPMG and industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), the number of Internet-enabled smartphones in India is increasing and expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 30%.

By the end of 2014, India had around 116 million Internet-enabled smartphones and the number is expected to reach 435 million by 2019.

Currently, the market is flooded with a number of independent digital news media products as well as online versions of established newspapers which are seeing a big growth in traffic.

Digital advertising, according to the Ficci-KPMG report, is expected to touch Rs.6,250 crore in 2015. At a compounded annual growth rate of 30.2%, it is expected to reach Rs.16,250 crore in 2019.

Referring to ABC’s proposed measurement service, Samir Patil, founder and chief executive officer of Scroll, said: “Digital will benefit from more measures and spotlight. After all, Indians with Internet spend more than half their time online, but advertisers spend less than 10% on the medium. Whether this new system is more useful than the battery of existing analytics remains to be seen.”