Handbags at twenty clicks

I am writing in response to the article that claimed that Ivillage had “leapfrogged its longer-established UK rivals to become the top women’s website” (MW April 19).

The claim was based on user figures compiled by Doubleclick’s DART, which is actually an ad management tool and therefore cannot be likened to an accurate and independent site audit, such as ABCElectronic.

ABCE reported Handbag.com’s user numbers for November 2000 as 367,071. Handbag.com is the only site in its sector to release independently audited user numbers, which are commonly accepted as the only accurate measurement tool when it comes to Internet traffic.

Ivillage’s use of DART figures to demonstrate user numbers is akin to Handbag.com releasing user figures as reported by WebTrends, the server log measurement software. While DART and WebTrends are not directly comparable as methods of measuring Internet traffic, they are both subject to error and include activity generated by robots, frames and cookies, activity which would ordinarily be discounted by an independent auditor.

If Handbag.com had quoted its own user numbers for the month of November, as measured by WebTrends’ software, they would have shown about 585,000 users for the period. This equates to a difference of 220,000, when compared with the more accurate ABCE stats.

There is great confusion at present concerning Internet measurement and it is clear that the industry is in need of a standard to measure traffic. At Handbag.com, one of our primary concerns in the lack of consistency in measurements is that it is misleading to advertisers and marketers. Websites will win significant revenues from advertising budgets only when, as an industry, we deliver audited results, as is already the case with radio, TV and press, all media against which we compete for revenue.

Dominic Riley


London W1

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