WASA launches

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.

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4 Replies to “WASA launches”

  1. Thanks for the post, Ian.

    Yes, it is unfortunate that the Google stats are slightly lower than Nielsen’s, but the variance as we’ve measured and tested it, is less than 3.5% (mostly lower), so we feel that the 2 can be directly compared without any significant misinterpretation.

    Yes, the OPA have indeed taken our launch a bit badly. We thought we’d have a few problems to deal with, but not quite the hard line that is being taken, as Andy and Rudolph met with the OPA over a month ago to brief them on WASA.

    We’ve tried to be as open as possible about our actions, but seemingly not enough so.

    I’m interested to hear that you think our categories are poorly chosen. As you say, categorisation is always a tricky issue, but we leave the choice up to members when they join with those categories as the possible choices.

    I’d be interested to hear what categories you would’ve chosen and why you think our choice is poor? We’re very open to suggestion as regards improvement of our service.

    I think you are being a touch unfair about your comment about Googling for the term WASA since the site has only been live for 8 days now… not a lot of time to correctly appear in the index. But if you search now, you will find us at the top spot for WASA in South Africa 😉

    We believe that a service such as ours is wanted/needed by the Internet space in South Africa (especially the long tail), and besides some negativity from the OPA and its associates, the general response we have received has been very positive.

    But yes, it does seem that we have a tough road ahead, but hopefully our true intent will be seen above some of the mudslinging, which is to enhance the profile of South African websites by providing an affordable way for local sites to get their statistics audited and to help them establish their web presence.

  2. Ah, just lost a long comment because it couldn’t connect and post to you server.
    Let me try and rewrite…

    Basically the gist of my post:

    1) Ian, I don’t think the large OPA publishers would like to share and hand over their analytics data to Google on a silver platter. I think they prefer a contracted 3rd party like Nielsen to keep their data, and not Google.

    If I had a big site, I might also think twice about opening all my intelligence up to Google.

    2) Then, while I commend WASA and their initiative, I must comment:
    both bidorbuy and mybroadband do not disclose to their users (according to section 7 of Google Analytic’s TOS) that they transmit data to Google and that Google uses cookies.
    Bidorbuy’s privacy policy is very expansive and in-depth and basically complies, but mybroadband does not even seem to have one.
    Some of the other WASA members also don’t seem to have privacy policies, or theirs are very vague.
    So Google could theoretically stop/ suspend their accounts from collecting data because of violation of TOS.
    Then what?

    What would WASA then publish?
    I think WASA needs to get all its members to comply fully with Google TOS and insist on suitable privacy policies, if it’s Google Analytics that it’s using for its measurements.

    (disclaimer: I work for a company that sells and plans online media and offers web analytics services)

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