I was pleased to see the launch of the Website Association of South Africa (WASA).
Currently, the only credible option for publishers is the Online Publishers Association (OPA), and their fees mean that only large media companies can justifiably participate. They’ve faced deserved hostility in this regard, as effectively they’ve shut the door to small publishers. The OPA has been great for large publishers – providing trusted, comparable audited statistics, and helping to restore credibility to the industry after the mess prior to that, but as a consequence smaller publishers fall outside the standard advertisers use, and are even more likely to be overlooked.
WASA, with it’s much more affordable fees, could go a long way towards opening up more of the long tail to advertising in the South African online industry. Small, niched, publishers such as Tectonic or Urban Sprout could now start to compete on the same terms.
WASA though has some significant challenges to overcome.
It utilises two different measuring mechanisms, and compares them directly. Nielsen/Netratings stats (the OPA’s benchmark) are compared with Google Analytics stats. It’s very unfortunate that Google Analytic stats tend to be lower than Nielsen’s stats, since it’s unlikely that any OPA publisher will now provide the lower version to WASA. Ideally, everyone on WASA should be measured using the same standard, and Google Analytics makes the most sense. If Google stats were higher, large publishers would be happier to release them, and you’d get a level playing field more easily.
A more serious problem is that they never got permission to publish the OPA stats. I can’t be sure of the legalities, but as I understand it the OPA members would be within their rights to refuse them permission to do so. And it looks like Media24 has already done this, as since earlier today they no longer appear in the WASA listings. If other OPA sites follow suit, it’s a big blow to WASA, but not an insurmountable one. If WASA provides a useful service to advertisers by listing most of the rest, pressure could forseably come from advertisers for larger publishers to release comparable statistics there too.
News, Technology, eCommerce, New Media and Portal are the chosen categories in WASA’s site, and the choice seems very odd. Categorisation is always tricky, and controversial, but these seem particularly poorly chosen.
Andy Higgins, from Bid or Buy, and Rudolph Muller from Mybroadband are behind the initiative, and WASA will have to work hard to gain the complete trust of other publishers.
It’s free to join until May, which leaves them a relatively short window to make the project successful. For all but the large media companies, there’s no reason not to join at least for the interim, and it’ll be interesting to see how the project progresses.
An advantage they have is that while the OPA, through Nielsen, has to run its own measurement system, Google Analytics can now provide this service for free. If I remember correctly I don’t think a huge portion of the OPA’s fees goes to Nielsen, but Nielsen must already be feeling the pressure from Google, and prices are likely to drop. Hopefully the OPA will start to feel similar pressures.
It’s perhaps an indicator of how far they have to go that Googling for the term WASA in South Africa returns results for the Women’s Academic Solidarity Association in positions 2-5.
I’m sure the Google search will provide more useful results by the time you read this, but for reference, Andy Hadfield and Matthew Buckland were the first that I know of to write about it, and Vincent Maher has also responded. There are some interesting comments to their posts already.
I’m hoping that WASA gets enough traction to either become a viable, trusted system in itself, and/or force some long-overdue changes in the OPA, particularly in pricing.