SBJ/March 21-27, 2011/Media

BAM carries metrics battle into mobile arena

One of MLBAM’s most pressing projects for 2011 is making some progress on a long-standing online metrics issue.

Bowman
SHANA WITTENWYLER
"Reach still matters in this business, like it or not." — Bob Bowman, MLBAM president and CEO
For years, MLBAM President and Chief Executive Bob Bowman has publicly battled third-party measurement agencies such as comScore and Nielsen Online, particularly the latter, for what he alleges is a severe disconnect between server-based traffic totals and those gleaned from panel-based methodologies used by the agencies. The third-party traffic figures, sometimes less than a third of what Bowman says MLB.com actually receives on a monthly basis, in turn are used by ad buyers. Those ad buyers almost invariably look to sites with higher totals when spending their marketing budgets.

“Reach still matters in this business, like it or not,” Bowman said. “It’s still a big problem, and it’s going to get worse.”

Particularly troubling, he says, is the exploding realm of mobile, which between application-based sales and mobile Internet-based delivery has even less standardization in metrics than the unsettled world of broadband Internet measurement. Mobile traffic represented 37 percent of MLB.com’s overall traffic in 2010, may approach half this year, and soon will be the dominant share of the site’s overall visitation as smartphones and tablets continue to proliferate. Only 8 percent of MLB.com traffic came from mobile devices just three years ago.

Because of all that, MLBAM this season will introduce a new mobile ad platform that will dynamically insert ads into its live streams to wireless devices. Such an effort has never been done on the scale MLBAM is contemplating, and executions will include both traditional video spots between innings and during other breaks in play, and shorter interstitials.

“This is a vital part of our business,” Bowman said. “It’s not a nice-to-have, luxury kind of thing.”

MLBAM will be working with Bay Area technology firm Auditude, according to industry sources, to build the mobile ad platform. Auditude has been working with the company on its broadband ad serving.

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