Why We Should Boycott ComScore – Repost from Jason Calacanis

I really like Jason and what he’s done as an entrepreneur in the internet space. I like to support him and his causes, so I’m reposting his email (as he suggests) on the “Pay to Play” services offered by ComScore. Enjoy!

Comscore is the technology industry’s biggest bully, and today I’m calling for an industry-wide boycott of their services.

I’m asking journalist and bloggers to stop covering their stats, I’m asking advertisers to not use their services, and finally, I’m asking startup companies to not support their new and widely reported on “$10,000 to get your stats correct” extortion ring.

If I was a stock trader I would short the stock–but I’m not–so I won’t (I keep my money in bonds and angel investments for the record). Also, if you own Comscore shares, I’m not going to tell you that you should sell them, but if I were an analyst–and I’m not–I would probably tell folks to sell every share they had, and as quickly as possible.

Additionally, I’m asking Comscore to drop their “pay for correct stats” model in the next ten days.

Let’s get into why.

Comscore’s Reign of Terror ————————

For over a decade, I’ve railed against our industry’s leading metrics company ComScore with little result.

It all started when I was a journalist in the 90s for the Silicon Alley Reporter. I listened to company after company from Silicon Alley to Silicon Valley complain about how ComScore’s method of counting traffic websites, via a sample of users, was incorrect.

People couldn’t understand why the internet industry, with it’s ability to track traffic perfectly, would ever adopt the failed sample-based methods used on television and radio. Comscore’s ideas were antiquated and unnecessary.

Entrepreneurs would show me their internal stats, which were typically three to five times larger than Comscore’s numbers, and beg me to correct them in the Silicon Alley Reporter.

However, I noticed a pattern: the big companies didn’t complain about Comscore.

Why?

Well, from what multiple people shared with me, you simply had to follow the money. According to these folks it was an unspoken truth for years that if you paid Comscore they fixed your numbers, and if you were a small company and didn’t, well, you suffered. Comscore would probably deny this, but their recent “pay to play” product shows their true stripes.

They screwed me at Weblogs, Inc. ————————

It wasn’t until I started Weblogs, Inc. that I really felt the sting of not participating in the Comscore protection racket. You see, advertisers love Comscore and they make advertising buys based on it.

Our small, but growing blogs, were under reported month after month and Comscore basically told me to pound salt when I complained. It cost me money, and I promised myself that if I could ever support another service that wasn’t based on payola I would.

Here you can see a smoking gun from 2005 when Comscore did a “study” on blogs with Gawker Media as a sponsor. Interestingly, Gawker’s blogs did really well in the study. The only problem was that Comscore’s numbers were different than the SiteMeter traffic that Gawker and Weblogs Inc. were publishing at the time.

Denton privately admitted to me he support Comscore because he had to because of their reputation in the advertising industry. He thought I should bite the bullet as well and get in bed with the bullies. Not my style, sorry.

[[ Some links from 2005 Comscore: Show us the data or get out of Dodge http://bit.ly/4I7S6i and ClickZ: http://www.clickz.com/3526851 – Fred Wilson throws me under the bus: http://bit.ly/8BpFnh ]]

I publicly complained about Comscore but no one would really listen. Actually Jeff Jarvis did support me: http://bit.ly/8zW0GF

My good friend Fred Wilson, who had invested in the firm, turned away and watched the bullies he invested in pummel me when I complained about Comscore. Fred is outspoken and an advocate of startups–except with Comscore. He’s turned a blind eye while letting his huge venture return in Comscore color his objectivity. In fact, it must be obvious to Fred that Comscore is, in fact, holding back his other startup investments by extorting money from them!

Fred’s been an amazing supporter of mine over the years, but I’ve never been able to get over the fact that he invested in and supported these guys. Fred’s continued support of this company is unconscionable at this point. He needs to come out and say that Comscore charging $10,000 for this product is a pure shake down.

Do it Fred… you know you want to! 🙂

ComScore Tries to Buy Me Off ————————

This summer the tough guys at Comscore approached me with a clandestine deal after I continued to publicly complain about their methods. The message was clear: if I stopped criticizing them and publicly supported their server data measurement program they would not charge me. The $10,000 it would cost a year for this service would be free for me if I threw my fellow entrepreneurs under the bus.

Their email to me included something out of the a Sopranos episode: “Normally there is a cost to implement, but in this case we will gladly waive the charge if you are interested.” Yeah, and if you’re not interested perhaps you would like to come on a fishing trip with us this weekend.

You bastards think that after a *decade* of me trying to stop your extortion you can by me off by simply waiving some fees? I could easily pay the $10,000 fee today but I will never give you guys a dime. I will remember what you did to me when I was coming up forever.

I’d rather lose half my revenue from advertising as Mahalo grows from a top 1,000 site (2007), to the top 400 sites (2008) and now a top 200 site (2009), and eventually even a top 50 site I hope (2011?)–than give you even one ounce of my support.

I wrote back: “You guys are evil for charging companies–I would never support you. Quantcast and Google are going to crush you guys…. And I’m telling everyone I know to support Quantcast.”

They never contacted me again.

Comscore formalizes their extortion ring ————————

This week you may have read over at the excellent “All Things D” that Comscore is now willing to do real metrics on your website if you give them $10,000 a year. They claim this is to pay for their servers. More: http://bit.ly/6Fqrhe

This after they spent the last decade criticizing the direct measurement methods of their competitors like Quantcast and Google Analytics as being flawed! Now they say pixel tracking–actual measurement on the server side–is the best method. What a bunch of slim buckets.

Could it be that enough publishers and advertisers have told you to go f– yourself in the past year?

Could it be that Quantcast has a product that is 100x better than your service and it’s FREE?

Could it be that Compete.com is secretly testing a server-side testing method like Quantcast’s and is about to kick your ass?

From where I sit, this is Comscore’s desperate Hail Mary pass to try and save their dying protection racket. Comscore has ZERO value when Google Analytics, Compete.com and Quantcast allow you to publicly and freely track your stats.

Bullies, Ethics & Your Part ————————

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I learned that when you or your friends were being bullied there was really only one solution to the problem: punch the bully directly in the face as hard as you can the second they approached you. Like really, the second they come at you–the second the first word comes out of their mouth–punch them in the face. Don’t let them even finish their sentence. If they say “I want your milk money” your fist should make contact right around the “want” mark.

BANG!

At a young age I tested this technique and it resulted in a couple of multi-day suspensions from school and black eyes, but it is a life-long strategy for success that has never failed me. Do not let yourself or your friends get bullied–ever. Even if you get your ass kicked, at least you got your shot in and you held your ground.

When someone from Comscore approaches, you should tell them to go hell. (Note: do not literally punch them in the face–I’m not advocating physical violence here, I’m advocating voting with your dollar.)

I put up a good fight for a decade but made little progress and frankly got my ass kicked by Comscore in the Weblogs, Inc. days. However, their obnoxious behavior has finally been publicly exposed. This means that we–as an industry–can finally run this bully out of town.

Again, here is what I’m asking for in the Comscore Boycott. Feel free to republish this article in whole at your blog.

The Comscore Boycott: Play Your Part! ======================

  1. Startups: Do NOT pay a single penny to Comscore–ever.
  2. Startups who are getting this program for free (I suspect a good number): Opt out and tell Comscore to f– themselves.
  3. Press & Bloggers: Please do not run Comscore’s inaccurate numbers, and please expose their extortion ring.
  4. Advertisers: Do not use Comscore to plan your media buys: use the free and more accurate Quantcast.
  5. Google: Please release your version Comscore killer (based on Quantcast’s model), or better yet PLEASE BUY QUANTCAST!
  6. Compete.com: Please release your Comscore killer.
  7. Stock traders & Analysts: Please think deeply about the potential revenue destruction that Comscore could be facing.
  8. Fred Wilson: publicly state that you do not agree with ComScore’s mafia-like methods.
  9. Republish this email at your blog.
  10. If you have information on Comscore that should be exposed send it to me in confidence (say anonymous up top)

To My “Friends” at Comscore —————————————

You know I’m right.  As such, I’m asking for complete and unconditional surrender. Make your tracking pixel program 100% free in the next 10 days or the boycott will continue.

If you’re a current or former executive at Comscore and you have an opinion on this please send me your thoughts in confidence, and I will republish them to the list without your name.

If you’re a current employee who can’t deal with this any more, please add me on LinkedIn and ask for a LinkedIn introduction to the Google Analytics, Compete.com or Quantcast teams. I will gladly forward talented people from Comscore on to companies I think are more ethical.