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September 9, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:34am

Online audience measurement: How UKOM came up with new standard for news brands

By Ian Dowds

UK Online Measurement (UKOM) is the body behind a new agreed audience metric for UK news brands. Here chief executive Ian Dowds explains the change to Ipsos iris as the new UK standard for online audience measurement and the benefits to news publishers of its “future-ready” approach.

(Partner content*)

There are many reasons, good and bad, why 2021 will be a memorable year. For news publishers, and all who work in media and marketing, changing the UK industry standard for online audience measurement to Ipsos from Comscore will be one of the significant developments.

The first full data set from Ipsos iris for UK online audiences was released in April 2021. It marked the end of a process that took more than two years, saw a broad industry consultation and an open RFP process leading to the selection and development of a new online audience measurement proposition endorsed by UKOM.

The message to UKOM from the industry consultation was consistent, loud and clear: robust cross-device and cross-platform audience measurement is a critical need, not just a nice-to-have. Publishers, agencies and advertisers all recognise the ever-increasing complexity of that requirement.

UKOM was determined to select the proposition that best meets the need for accuracy along with the flexibility to deal with that complexity. With that goal in mind, all the major UK news publishers and their trade bodies played their part in the selection and evolution of Ipsos iris.

The Ipsos iris single source, multi-device panel of at least 10,000 individuals, with around 25,000 devices in total, was the bedrock of the UKOM selection. The single-source panel makes the Ipsos iris data more representative, less modelled and therefore more robust than alternative methodologies involving multiple panels.

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A single source panel is interoperable with other data sets and will allow greater integration of UKOM endorsed data with a number of proprietary data sources. The cooperation between PAMCo, UKOM and Ipsos is a great example of a capability to silence the naysayers who believe cross-media measurement at an industry level is just too complicated.

We are proud that the UKOM data will continue to form the online element of PAMCo’s cross-platform audience measurement for published brands.

The Ipsos iris panel is of course demographically representative of the UK online population but an addition that will grab the attention of news publishers is that online audience data can now also be reported by region (as per BARB TV regions), with a plan to go down to city level, and also by ethnicity.

These, along with postcode-based financial segmentations and the inclusion of more than 40 media consumption and lifestyle questions in the panel questionnaire allow richer, more granular, elements of audience categorisation than ever before. Daypart break-outs that align broadly with TV measurement are also available.

One of the most exciting developments is that for the first time there is access to some daily audience data available in Ipsos iris. How did one publisher’s exclusive scoop on a political scandal drive that day’s audience to beat its rivals? How did England vs Italy in the Euro 2020 final drive all sports news consumption that day? Publishers can now benchmark themselves and others on a daily basis when it comes to online audiences.

All subscribers and users of the UKOM Ipsos iris data have prepared for a change from the audience numbers produced by the previous supplier. Tempting as it may be for all involved to do so, the two data sets cannot be compared. The UKOM RFP did not require that the new supplier generate online audience data that was directly comparable to the previous data.

A new supplier, a first-for-UKOM single-source panel, new methodologies and modelling, along with an entirely different universe mean that no consistent ‘exchange rate’ can be created to be applied at any level between the old and new data sets.

Throw into the mix the organic changes in the online behaviour of the UK population, no doubt distorted significantly over the last Covid-effected 18 months, and you will appreciate why publishers must not look to simply compare numbers from the previous supplier with the data generated by Ipsos iris.

At UKOM, when we commit to something, we make it happen. As more publishers tag their websites and apps so the data will grow richer and even more robust. As more platforms like Apple News, Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP generate audiences for publishers’ distributed content so Ipsos will work with those platforms to include such data.

There are challenges in online measurement around privacy legislation, third-party cookies and newer identity solutions that can work within operating systems, each seemingly in a constant state of flux – solutions that must not transgress ever-changing national and international guidelines and laws.

We look forward to the challenges and opportunities that exist to embed UKOM endorsed data into proprietary systems as a strong foundation of independence and objectivity.

Between UKOM and Ipsos we know that the process of delivering robust and independent online audience measurement never stops. New platforms, new devices and new content – audio and visual – will continue to appear and evolve, helping newspapers thrive and grow their audiences.

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*This article was produced in association with UKOM, a trusted Press Gazette commercial partner.

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