SBJ/October 10-16, 2011/Media

Like rivals, indie sites say they’re undercounted

As the major independent sports websites continue to mature and see their traffic rise dramatically, they’re also increasingly dealing with the same online traffic headaches as their older, name-brand competitors.

Third-party measurement agencies such as Nielsen Online and comScore Media Metrix use blends of server-based and panel measurement data to construct their monthly traffic reports. But like their larger competitors, the independents say they are routinely being undercounted by the outside entities.

Bleacher Report and SB Nation, for example, appeared in the August comScore rankings as having 7.7 million and 6.8 million unique visitors, respectively. But their own internal server data, which they say counts the traffic firsthand, in full, and without sampling methods common to third-party data, yielded figures of more than 20 million unique visitors for each site.

Most sites sell advertising as much as possible based on their own internal traffic data. Such disparities still matter as many large brand advertisers base initial buying decisions on third-party data. Since the independents, unlike a league site, typically don’t have large amounts of paid content to sell, the advertising issues manifest themselves that much more.

“It’s something we’re definitely continuing to try to get a better handle on,” said Jim Bankoff, SB Nation chairman and chief executive. “We’re seeing a ton of traffic momentum, even as it’s not completely reflected in comScore.”

Like the network and league sites, the internal and external traffic numbers are not the result of one specific destination, but the compilation of dozens, or in some cases hundreds, of sites. Big Lead Sports, for example, is a network of more than 500 sites featuring a disparate mix of sports news, commentary, statistics and fantasy content. SB Nation, similarly, ties together its grouping of more than 300 individual blogs.

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