ComScore is the leading marketplace intelligence organization that ranks viewership across platforms and gathers media consumption trends in the U.S. It became massively important in the 2010s when market stakeholders realized the necessity of transparent third-party measurement of audience demographics across all platforms.
Let’s find out how these rankings are measured, their effects on the digital ecosystem, and whether publishers should still care about them.
What and how do they measure?
ComScore provides a third-party measurement of viewership and audience insights across multiple platforms, including digital, linear TV, over-the-top (OTT), and theatrical viewership. They use the traditional ‘panel’ method to measure audiences, which is slightly different from machine measurement used by other web analytics systems such as Google Analytics or SimilarWeb.
With their panel methodology, ComScore aims to track unique visitors rather than devices or browsers and look into their consumption behavior across all mediums. While it may sound less objective compared to all-digital machine measurement, their evaluation is comparable with Google Analytics and much more precise than SimilarWeb estimates.
Small differences that occur in comparison with Google Analytics can be attributed to how these organizations are using metrics. For example, ComScore eliminates bot traffic, while Google counts all unique visitors, bot or human. By the Google methodology, 30 minutes of user inactivity imply a session timeout, after which new interaction ads up as the new visit. Also, ComScore disqualifies visits that last less than 3 seconds.
It is worth mentioning that ten years ago ComScore ranked media properties based on three key indicators: unique viewers, viewing sessions, and minutes per viewer. Today, the number of unique viewers is the single most important measure to achieve higher ComScore rankings.
To achieve accurate composite scoring, ComScore relies on the active participation of media. Publishers have to install ComScore pixels on their pages, and this can potentially slow down the site speed. Moreover, it is a paid service being sold to publishers, and their fees assume that it is not something an average media outlet would typically get into.
Do these rankings matter for advertisers?
In September 2020, they released the top U.S. multi-platform properties; the first ten digital media from the list are shown in the table below.
ComScore is still the go-to source of digital market intelligence for large-scale advertisers, agencies, and top publishers. The organization acts as a middleman that provides independent judgment during big-name contract negotiations.
ComScore rankings remain to be a trustworthy source of competitive advantage for bigger publisher brands. However, at the end of the day, it is the audience itself rather than its third-party validation that is valued by advertisers.
ComScore is a renowned industry leader in reporting viewership stats and analytics across platforms, so their rankings are likely to continue having an impact on muscle games between the Internet giants.
Even though ComScore ratings are designed to serve the big players in the digital media landscape, small and medium publishers still can look for external sources of audience validation to ensure revenue streams from advertisers. For example, Nielsen, Alexa, and Quantcast also provide third-party audience measurement services and have different types of ranking systems.