B2B publishers

The move is expected to open new online advertising opportunities for business-to-business (B2B) publishers, whose sites may attract a lot of traffic in particular markets, such as information technology, but whose print publications are not ranked alongside paid circulation magazines in print audit reports.

B2B publishers have been among the first to see the advantages of having their website audiences audited, according to ABA chief executive Gordon Towell.

He said last week that the ABA was launching an internet auditing service based on Nielsen Online's Market Intelligence data.

Some online publishers expressed the view privately last week that the audit indicated the print industry was trying to put its stamp of authority on internet publishers.

But media agency MediaCom chief executive Anne Parsons said online would benefit from being able to be evaluated in the same way other media were evaluated.

"You have to have a credible source for audience measurement," she said.

Mr Towell said online-only publishers would also benefit from having their audiences verified, giving media buyers confidence they were comparing like traffic with like across rival sites.

The Interactive Bureau of Australia is supporting the web audit.

IBA chief executive Paul Fisher said last week that verification would be the final piece of the puzzle for online publishers seeking to reassure advertisers their traffic numbers were reliable.

He said it would be launched in May and the first verified audience figures would be available from June.

"We are going to publish ABA web audited tables for CAB (controlled circulation) and ABC (paid circulation) titles," Mr Towell said.

"My view is they're indistinguishable when you are talking about web traffic."

The ABA will issue reports allowing media buyers and publishers to see the top-ranked audited websites in particular categories, as well as providing audit certificates with print and online data side by side.

New forms of online media, such as interactive virtual versions of printed publications, may also be audited under the system.

B2B publisher Westwick-Farrow chief executive Adrian Farrow said he expected the web audit would be quite revolutionary in some niche markets because it would alert media buyers to sites outside big networks such as Ninemsn.

"It doesn't matter whether you are business or consumer (focused), your magazine might not be the highest-selling magazine but you might rank very well on your website," Mr Farrow said.

"That's a powerful sales tool. We're going to have all our websites audited as soon as it becomes available."

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