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Yahoo backs up its ad stats

Yahoo hires the respected accounting firm of Ernst & Young to audit the process by which it gathers advertising statistics.

Yahoo (YHOO) wants to make its advertisers feel comfortable with its advertising statistics. So instead of issuing calm reassurances, the online mega site has hired the respected accounting firm of Ernst & Young to audit the process by which it gathers advertising statistics.

For both Yahoo and Ernst & Young, this is a new venture in the burgeoning field of Web measurement and yet another sign that advertising is a serious business on the Internet.

Yahoo had been using I/Pro since January 1996 both to measure and audit Yahoo's statistics. But this move is a sign that advertisers want to separate those functions, said Evan Neufeld, the online advertising analyst for Jupiter Online. "I think it's a sign that what has become a de facto standard--measuring and auditing--need to be separate and distinct functions," he said.

Yahoo still will have an independent agency auditing its results. AVBS Interactive will certify the results after Ernst & Young audits and approves the manner in which the results were gathered. Yahoo will reevaluate its relationship with I/Pro after the new system is put into place this summer.

Jeff Mallet, senior vice president of Yahoo's business operations said this move could set a standard for large Web sites. "This is definitely breaking new ground for the Web at large," he said. "This media is maturing and this will give the advertising content community a comfort level that they will be able to get the data back that they expect from Web advertising and content distribution."

Large advertisers already have direct access to advertising Yahoo's statistics, Mallet said. But after the Ernst & Young audit, they'll be able to have more confidence in the impartiality of the information, he said.

For Ernst & Young, this could signify a new way to extend its business on the Web. Although the company has done other certification processes on the Net, looking specifically at this kind of certification is new for the company, said Teri Shaffer, an Ernst & Young partner in information systems assurance and advisory services.

"Specifically for interactive advertising on the Net, this is a leading edge and Yahoo is driving this effort," Shaffer said. "It helps us establish a role as a trusted third party."