Acquisitions Aplenty! comScore Buys Nedstat
We’re certainly on an acquisition hot roll here in our cozy little measurement industry. This week marked yet another buy-up of a web analytics company, Netherlands based Nedstat, was acquired by comScore. The sale price was reported at $36.7 million USD, which brings the tally of measurement buy-outs including the $1.8 billion dollar Omniture acquisition last year to nearly $2.5 billion dollars by my count. Those are some good multiples on revenue since my Forrester Web Analytics Forecast didn’t peg market spending to hit even $1 billion until sometime in 2015. Granted Omniture, Unica and to some extent Coremetrics were offering more than just web analytics in their product portfolios. But regardless, measurement technologies are all the rage these days and finally, big businesses are taking note of the value of web analytics.
Some might say that comScore and Nedstat, while serving similar industries for different purposes, were running on parallel paths and that an acquisition was a plausible outcome. But before I dive into that hypothesis, first I’ll toot my own horn by mentioning that I went on record predicting this one. The good fellas at Beyond Web Analytics interviewed me on the topic of market consolidation just after the IBM acquisition of Unica and we had a good chat about it here on the podcast. The closing question asked me to look into my crystal ball and guess who would be the next acquirer in the analytics market. While I didn’t guess that it would be comScore, I did speculate that there are some very interesting and valuable technologies that exist in Europe. I mentioned both Webtrekk in Germany and Nedstat as companies that would make appealing acquisition targets. Clearly comScore must have been listening (c’mon, I jest). But one of my clients across the pond also mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Nedstat’s CEO was quoted in a German newspaper as saying that there is no longer a place for a dedicated web analytics company in this environment. I’ve been saying this since early 2009, but coming from a chief officer of a successful technology operation…Foreshadowing indeed.
The Red Herring
So, bright and early on morning of the acquisition my friend Jodi McDermott reached out to me on the news by pointing out the press release on the deal and I owe her a big thanks for that. When we spoke later that morning along with Magid Abraham, comScore founder and CEO the first question Jodi asked me was…”Were you surprised?”. Now, the dirty little secret is that analysts can never show surprise, but heck yeah I was surprised that comScore was the buyer!?! I didn’t anticipate comScore because of their Unified Digital Measurement (UDM) solution which currently handles over 500 billion transactions per month and is growing rapidly. So, they already had their own tag based measurement solution. Additionally, just under a year ago comScore announced a strategic partnership with Omniture to deliver a newly created Media Metrix 360 solution predicated on UDM that would leverage a hybrid combination of Omniture page tags and comScore’ panel based measurement.
It was brilliant actually, and demonstrated the first significant attempt to bring together advertising measurement with site-side data. Yet, just a month after this partnership was announced, Omniture was snatched up by Adobe, and I can only speculate that the momentum on the partnership was stymied. Don’t get me wrong, Media Metrix 360 still exists, and clients like Martha Stewart and the Wall Street Journal add marquee status to the initiative. Thus, I would expect that comScore will support Media Metrix 360 by continuing the partnership with Adobe’s Omniture Business Unit as well as continue development on their own proprietary solution. Whatever they choose to do, these efforts – their own hybrid UDM tags and the Omniture relationship – created a red herring for me that had me looking elsewhere. Now the real question is… Was Nielson surprised and how will they counter? Sorry friends, my crystal ball is not that good.
The Plot Twister
I saved the best for last because here’s where the plot starts to get really interesting. comScore has stated that its acquisition interests in Nedstat are to better serve the media and publishing industries. Web analytics and site-side measurement has long been focused on the transaction and sites that don’t have traditional online transactions are left to quantify success by custom fitting solutions to meet their needs. With most web analytics solutions you’re forced to follow the conversion funnel through to a transaction (or not) and attempt tie things together or launch remarketing efforts from there. But when there’s no transaction at the end of the visit, then many traditional web metrics have very little resonance to the business.
Nedstat has long been focused on key topics like engagement and rich media measurement – metrics that matter to publishers. Now with the acquisition by comScore who has a stronghold within many media companies (not to mention a reserved line item in their budgets) they can create a very different value proposition for media companies looking to quantify metrics for their advertisers as well as optimize the experience for their visitors. I tend to agree with Magid who stated that this new paradigm for publishers is likely to create a natural segmentation in the market. With stalwart web analytics firms (albeit in their current incarnations) Omniture, Coremetrics and Unica are working towards an analytical system that feeds marketing automation. Now we’ve got the potential for something entirely different.
For these reasons I’m bullish on the acquisition. We have a new opportunity for web analytics where site-side measurement meets audience (panel based) measurement. It’s the collision course that many have been talking about. And it sets the stage for propelling measurement into next generation devices, apps and mobile platforms that don’t have transactional elements. It’s still too soon to say how this will play out, but I applaud Magid, Gian and the comScore team on their vision for creating a new measurement paradigm. And a big congrats goes out to Michael, Michiel, Fred, Ulrike and the entire Nedstat team for building a globally attractive solution. Bravo.
But these are just my thoughts…I may be way off…I may be crazy. Readers, do you agree that this new duo can impact enterprise measurement on a new level? I’d love to know what others think.