Looking for number-based sneakiness and selective/creative use of statistics comes with the territory in this job. Whenever audience data for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV or online is released, we can generally look forward to a host of releases from proud media owners that, understandably, aim to portray the results in a positive light—and, by extension, portray their competitors in a negative light. And, with the battle for online eyeballs heating up, MSN NZ and Yahoo! NZ are currently engaging in some data-related fisticuffs.
In a story featured on StopPress earlier this week, MSN crowed about a 48 percent year-on-year upswing in unique browsers visiting its news portal, with the total up 250,000 to 771,000.
"In contrast, over the same period, UBs visiting rival Yahoo’s news offering dropped more than ten percent, from 1.7 million to 1.5 million," MSN sniped. It also stuck the boot into the nzherald.co.nz's performance between December and February, with UBs decreasing 19 percent to 190,000 compared to its 26 percent lift to 52,000 over the same period.
Yahoo! NZ hasn't taken it lying down, however, and responded to the claims by sending a statement that "pours cold water" on MSN's statistics by showing its audience has grown by more than 27,000 unique browsers in December compared to the same month the previous year (1,654,491 unique browsers in December 2010 to 1,681,805 in December 2011).
While it admitted its January 2011 figures were higher than this year, Yahoo! New Zealand’s editor-in-chief Marcus Forbes says that was due to the extensive coverage of the Queensland floods a year ago. This January had been relatively quiet in comparison.
"MSN had based its comments on Omniture data as opposed to the Nielsen Market Intelligence (NMI) data, which Yahoo! New Zealand and the majority of New Zealand’s online publishers use in their reporting."
Forbes says it is important to compare apples with apples when assessing data and says MSN's claims raises questions over the way online data is collected and distributed in New Zealand. He believes there is a requirement for a single source similar to television and radio that can be relied upon to accurately show how the market is tracking.
Yahoo! NZ also added that it has had a dedicated local editorial team, managing top national and international content, since the company’s inception in March 2007 and Forbes says it's great to see MSN following suit and investing in local editorial staff.
UPDATE: In a tit for Yahoo's tat, MSN NZ fired back with these points:
- Extensive coverage of the Queensland disaster was reported by all news outlets and therefore similarly impacted UBs (for all publishers).
- Over 2011 Yahoo news year-on-year traffic declined when news traffic for the other major online news providers - including MSN, Stuff, and APN - grew.
- The fact still remains that Yahoo UBs dropped by more than 10 per cent, from 1.7 million to 1.5 million. (Source: Nielsen MI) for the YOY January comparison (that's 181,000 fewer browsers and dwarfs Yahoo's 27,000 December increase).
- Sure, Omniture and NMI are two different sources, but they're both valid and collect data the same way.