Calls for clarity might have a murky motive

A campaign for Web auditing got small site’s backs up, and rather missed the point that site audits are becoming more relevant.

In the same way that newspapers release independently audited circulation figures, websites have wanted authoritative figures for the size of their audience. Five years ago the ABC stepped in, in the form of ABC Electronic (ABCE), but most sites remained unaudited.

A gauntlet was thrown down in June by Marcus Leaver, chief executive of and head of Chrysalis’ new media arm. Launching Chrysalis’ “audit or be damned” campaign, he sent letters to over 1,000 unaudited sites, telling them to get a monthly check-up or Chrysalis would “name and shame” them from September 1.

Chrysalis pushed the right buttons. Its initiative was welcomed as “helpful” by ABCE, and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), which last week started its own “regular audit” crusade, made favourable noises.

But since most smallto medium-sized sites can ill afford costly monthly audits, the campaign was seen by some as an attack on smaller sites. Last week, after a barrage of criticism over its tactics, Chrysalis sheepishly withdrew the threat, and instead backed the IAB’s less strident campaign.

Surely only cynics would connect the Chrysalis campaign with its announcement in June of a £9.1m half-year loss in its new media businesses – enough to outweigh the profits from the radio, music and TV operations. And the fact that has plenty of competition from small, unaudited football sites is, presumably, also a coincidence.

Ask any online media buyer, and they will tell you that site audits are increasingly irrelevant. Charlie Dobres, chief executive of I-Level, points out that most agencies already use third-party tracking software to check their campaigns, and many media buyers consider monthly site audits “a bit of a red herring really”.

In that case, why not audit the online campaigns themselves, to check if they were seen?

ABCE says it can do it. But campaign results are almost always confidential, so that’s not much help. Perhaps it would be more pertinent, as happens in the US, to audit the ad-tracking software, rather than the sites?

Online media isn’t like newspapers, radio or TV. You can tell if someone saw your ad, so why do you need the media owner to tell you, audited or not?

There has been no word from the companies that backed Leaver’s campaign – IPC Electric, Carat Interactive and Guardian Unlimited – but the next call for an auditing crusade is due any day, I’m sure.

Mike Butcher is a columnist for New Media Age

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here