Nielsen Statistics Called Into Question Again

    May 18, 2009

Along with what comScore and Hitwise put out, Nielsen’s data concerning online traffic is often viewed as being rather reliable, and almost every month, loads of people turn to it to see how different sites stack up.  A couple of rather important companies have recently called into question the accuracy of Nielsen’s stats, however.

First came Hulu, which, as a New York Times article written last week detailed, didn’t seem to appreciate a report that put its April audience down from a March reading of 8.9 million users.  Hulu’s got big corporate backers, of course, and so isn’t likely to be making wild, substantiated claims.

Nielsen Logo

Now, the New York Times itself is crying foul in a polite way.  Nielsen tried to describe the size of different newspaper sites’ audiences, and NYT spokesperson Diane McNulty told Jennifer Saba, "We believe their data is in error.  We’re reviewing the methodology now as the numbers are inconsistent with three other independent sources and our own internal data."

It should be interesting to see if any more corporations pile on.  There have certainly been problems with statistics-related reports before, as a Traffick piece notes; Google’s stock dropped more than four percent following the release of some iffy comScore info.

Or perhaps Nielsen’s just made some more definitional changes that set its numbers apart from those generated by other firms.  Either way, Nielsen hasn’t admitted any fault so far, and it may comfort search experts to know that Nielsen’s estimation of Google’s market share sits between the numbers generated by comScore and Hitwise.