Comscore, Assigning Traffic and Direct Sales: What Publishers Should Know

At the beginning of every partnership, Freestar requests the new publisher sign a Comscore traffic assignment letter (TAL). The TAL is located in the publisher onboarding packet, and along with it, a brief explainer on what this is, and why we’re asking you to sign it. Due to the increasing interest in this topic, that explainer is our latest blog post!

What is Comscore?

Comscore is a media measurement company that tracks audience data on web properties and mobile apps. Data varies by plan type, but typically tracked is unique visitors (NOTE: Comscore rankings are not based on pageviews), total minutes on site, pageviews, video views and several other site-level metrics.

Similar to Nielsen, Comscore collects data directly from humans who have opted to participate in panels and surveys, as well as from customers and various partnerships. There are minimum requirements, a threshold that must be met for a property’s more granular data to be viewable. In a situation recently, I was trying to find demo data on a publisher in Comscore, but couldn’t locate them. Per Google Analytics, the site had one million UVs in July, but still did not meet Comscore’s MRS (minimum requirement standards).

Comscore Rankings

The traffic data Comscore tracks is then used to compile monthly rankings, based on number of unique visitors, for the top media entities in the United States. A site can rank in non-vertical specific categories like the Top 100 or Top 1,000, or within verticals, like Entertainment, Automotive, Lifestyle, or Education.

A web property can only appear in one set of rankings, so for example, Freestar cannot be on both the Top 100 list and the Top Technology list. To switch categories, a certain majority of your content has to be relevant to your brand or website.

Comscore is a trusted measurement system, and can verify to a brand the true position of the publisher and who their audience is, which brings us to the next FAQ.

Who Does Comscore Benefit?

Comscore typically matters more to publishers, either a Parent Media Company or an individual web property. They take the rankings, the data and any prestige or trust Comscore might carry, and use it to land direct sold media campaigns at a premium CPM rate.

Ultimately, if and when a publisher is selling their ad inventory directly to a brand, this is when Comscore might matter to your strategy.

Advertisers desire scale, so when an independent publisher can tuck under a larger set of properties, and be included in additional pitch material or audience extension plans, you’ll likely land more direct dollars than being on your own.

Traffic Assignment Letters, TLDR

Comscore’s traffic assignment letter is an agreement between the independent publisher and the media company they will be combining traffic numbers with.

The first few sentences acknowledge both parties in the agreement, followed by giving permission for the traffic to be rolled into the same account. Paragraph number two states that that a site can only b listed once in Comscore, and not assigned to more than one entity.

The next part of the TAL says Comscore can refuse the TAL request for any number of reasons, followed by language by one last section that says Comscore is in no way liable for anything bad that happens to the web or app properties.

Assigning traffic in Comscore does not mean you can’t still run your own direct sales efforts. The opposite is more often the case. A common TAL-tactic for publishers is to assign traffic to a larger media company who can sell on their behalf, while also running their own direct sales initiatives.

Unless your direct sales is so strong that by signing a TAL you’ll be helping your competition, the benefits for a publisher to sign the TAL and join up with other properties, outweigh the benefits of appearing as an individual property within Comscore.

You can re-assign your traffic at any time, there is no permanent or even long-term commitment required of the TAL. Signing the TAL doesn’t give business ownership or rights to the larger media company in any way.

The Deal With Direct

With all industry signs pointing to a programmatic future, why do publishers continue to put direct sales on a pedestal? Direct campaigns are known to come with higher CPMs for publishers. Simply stated, advertises pay a higher price to work with client service people to ensure the campaign runs smoothly.

While direct sold campaigns will include higher CPMs for the publisher, they also require a lot more work from them too. Yes, the biggest and highest quality brands, the Targets and Best Buys of the world, continue to run campaigns this way, they also run PMP campaigns which are delivered programmatically.

Every publisher is different, and how you choose to sell ad inventory, will depend on your business model. Sometimes it comes down to the internal resources it takes to deliver on direct sold campaigns. But more often, it comes down to website quality, and an advertiser’s desire to run ads on the site.

In 2022, Freestar’s direct sold campaign revenue generated and dispersed across our publishers has increased over 400%, but the majority of our business intentionally remains programmatic. We work across both business models to deliver publishers the maximum overall ad revenue.

If you’re interested in working with Freestar, please email us at [email protected] today!

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