x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Websites 'overestimating their popularity'

Websites in the Middle East may be overestimating their popularity by more than 20 per cent.

Websites in the Middle East may be overestimating their popularity by more than 20 per cent, trial results from a new online audience measurement system suggest. The Effective Measure system, produced by the Dubai-based research group Real Opinions, helps website publishers record accurately how many visitors reach their sites and details the demographics of their audience.

Since last month, the system has been on trial at 17 prominent Middle-Eastern web publishers, including the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which publishes The National. The trial showed that a large number of internet users in the region are being double or triple-counted by website owners, because the users delete their "cookies", small files downloaded to computers that tell a website that the user is a repeat visitor.

The Effective Measure trial, which ran on more than 75 websites and reached more than eight million unique users, showed that 21 per cent of web users were deleting cookies and being treated as a new user when they revisited. The news represents the latest shots fired in the battle between Effective Measure and the US-based Nielsen Media Research to become the definitive online measurement standard for the region.

Effective Measure entered the market first, launching its service late last year. Nielsen launched its audience measurement services in the region in February. Maktoob, the largest Arabic and English portal on the web, looked at both options before signing with Nielsen last month. "One thing that was important for us, especially in the Middle East, was that we want to adopt the best practice and we don't want to go our own way and marginalise the region," said Ahmed Nassef, the general manager of Maktoob.com.

Mr Nassef was concerned about the privacy issues surrounding the kinds of cookies used by Effective Measure, which he said were harder to opt out of than those used by Nielsen. Tahir Khalil, the head of Nielsen Online for MENA, said: "In my view, there are going to be two players for a while until the dust settles, and that's fine. There's a lot of fence-sitting going on right now." tgara@thenational.ae

khagey@thenational.ae Correction In an earlier version of the story we reported that Gulf News was among the publishers that had signed up for a trial of the system. Gulf News does not have any formal agreement with Real Opinions or its online audience measurement system. The National regrets the error.