With the understanding that online advertisers are shifting towards buying specific audience behavior instead of impressions by the tonnage, it must certainly follow that access to user behavior is critical to ad networks' ability to segment and sell on that basis. That access generally comes in the form of raw page view data gathered across their network.
I took a look at the top 40 ad networks in the US in December 2008, according to Comscore data. While Comscore measures uniques, % reach and page views per month, they don't measure "page view reach" or the number of "touch points" per user (which is my term for any individual behavioral data point per user). The more data points they have for each user, and the more reach across the Web, the stronger their position insofar as behavioral profiling and targeting. So I calculated that myself in the table below.
Here are a few things that stood out for me:
- Yahoo has access to the most user behavior, reaching 51% of all pages viewed, and with almost 1,500 touchpoints per user per month
- Platform-A and Google are not far behind, each with more than 10x the behavioral data that Specific Media has.
- Most of the ad networks listed don't have even 5% of the access to page views that Yahoo and Google do.
- Only if you combine all the page view data from Specific Media and every one of the networks in positions #6 through #40, do you approach the reach of either Yahoo or Google.
Insofar as behavioral targeting, the "rest" of these networks aren't competing with each other as much as they're competing with the "big 3". In order to compete most effectively with the "big 3", ad networks should co-op their raw behavioral data and thereby compete (better) as they always have -- on the basis of their sales process, ad operations, and publisher network.
Note: seems that Comscore doesn't include ad networks who haven't subscribed in some way to their service.